Archive for ‘woot’


The Extinction-Level Risk of LLMs

Friend Steve and I were talking about the whole “LLMs are an extinction-level risk to humanity” thing (recent letter, one account of why it’s rather silly), and about how, if one accepted that there was an extinction-level risk and wanted to bring it about because one is evil or whatever, what one would actually do.

The people talking about this “risk” are notably silent on this sort of issue; they prefer that we should just believe them (and give them funding, and not worry about the less exciting-sounding bad things that their AI companies are actually doing), not ask “extinction how, exactly?”.

So here’s how you do the whole Universal Paperclips thing with an LLM, and end up destroying the world or whatever:

  1. Put together a summary of the current state of the world, the goal (“get lots of Likes on Twitter” or whatever), and the prompt (“please describe the next steps toward attaining the goal, and what kinds of things about the world should be in the state-summary next time around”).
  2. Feed that to your LLM,
  3. Take the output of the LLM, and do whatever it says (“plug-ins” lol),
  4. Go to (1).

Presumably, if there’s the obvious sort of “extinction-level risks” here, after awhile all humans will have been replaced by robots that do nothing but click “Like” on Twitter all day.

Needless (I hope) to say, this would not actually work. But given that it wouldn’t, it seems like if you want to convince people that LLMs pose a Huge Risk to humanity at large, you’ve got to say something about how, unless you’re just in it for the clicks and headlines and to distract from your current massive power-grab.

(Or, if you think it would work, feel free to replace “get lots of Likes on Twitter” with “make [your name here] very wealthy”, and go for it! Let us know how that goes.)

Relatedly, this seems like an excellent response to The Letter:

Text: Mitigating the risk of extinction from capitalism should be a priority alongside other societal-scale disasters such as climate change and white supremacy.

1960s Psychodrama of Eldritch Suspense

So Midjourney has Yet Another New Version of their main engine, called “5.1”, and it’s very much like v5, except that it has more of a “house style” like 4.0 did, which can be turned off via “–style raw”. (There’s also “–stylize”, and one might think that ”–style raw” and say “–stylize 0” would do the same thing, but apparently not. It’s all magic.)

I have, as ever, been playing with it extensively (given that “relax mode” GPU time is free at my membership level, any time when the engine is not working for me is wasted, eh what?), and am now up somewhere over forty thousand images, most recently involving things like echidnas (apparently not “echidnae”; “is Sonic an Echidna?“) and many stills from non-existent movies. I will present here a number from a 1960s Psychodrama of Eldritch Suspense, because woot! (See also The Cult Hit of 1977.)

black and white image of two worried-looking young people in 1960's clothing sitting in a room; the woman is wearing a hat with perhaps googles or sunglasses on top of her head. In the background in a blurry figurine of something with tentacles.
Brad and Laura are concerned
Black and white image. A man in jacket and tie sits behind a desk, and a dark-haired woman sits in a chair in from of the desk. Both are looking into the camera. Behind them on the far wall are some rather disturbing vague shapes, perhaps of statuary?
Dr. Martin and Miss Carter are also concerned.
Black and white image. A dark-haired woman sits in an armchair at stage right. At stage left is a large sculpture of an oddly-proportioned and perhaps unclothed humanoid; the base of the sculpture seems to be uncarved stone or earth that spills out onto the floor. On a table at stage center is a small disembodied head, probably another sculpture.
Miss Carter appreciates Dr. Martin’s collection of exotic curios.
Black and white image. At stage left, background, a man in jacket and tie sits at a small table; on the wall above the table is a portrait of a rather sinisterly-scowling man. At stage center, foreground, a young woman with light hair looks downward and to our left, with a disturbed expression. At stage right, even more foreground, a man faces away from us and toward the woman; he is mostly in shadow.
Patrons in the village pub are concerned. And not only about the ugly picture.
Black and white image,1960s home interior; a man and woman, stage left, appear somewhat concerned by the dark-haired woman, center-right, who stands beside and bears an eerie resemblance to a tall black figure with a black stony inhuman face, large white-rimmed eyes, and a flowing black cloak (or a sculpted version of one).
Mrs. Martin is perhaps too impressed by the obsidian statue.
Black and white image. A room with dirty-looking walls and debris on the ground. A man, stage left, looks at a small woman or girl at stage center. Behind her on the wall is an eerie oblong shape with fur or spines and perhaps a hint of a face and glowing eyes. A door in the wall is ajar and beyond it is blackness.
“Joannie, what –” “Please, Go, Through, The, Door, Doctor, Martin”
Black and white image. A room with dirty-looking walls and ceiling, and wetness and debris on the ground. A man, stage left, looks at a small woman or girl at stage center. At stage right high on the wall is an eerie bulbous shape with small bright eyes and several slimy tentacles. A door in the far wall is open.
“Praise, The, Tentacles” “Yes, The, Wonderful, Tentacles”
Dim muted colors. A young woman or child sits in a large brown chair, facing us with a dark expression from large dark eyes. On the green wall behind her are seven faces, or masks, or heads, some with long dangling hair.  A bright white light at top center casts dark stark shadows.
“Come, Back, Soon”

(I like how exactly one of the eight images I made came out in color.)


Eaux saf aim; Midjourney v4 vs v5

Just a little more on the craziness from yesterday, and a comparison with Midjourney v5.

We chose another phoneme-triple to look at, “eaux saf aim”. In retrospect there are some words in there (French for “waters”, and English for “aim”), but that’s okay.

Using the magic from yesterday, with Midjourney v4 and “–no words,letters,text” and “–no face” (for that total weight of zero) and “–chaos 50 –ar 3:2”, we get the quite pleasing:

A two-by-two grid of images. From upper-left going clockwise: A person with the head of a fish wearing a diving suit, standing in front of an oval blue disc with white lines radiating from it (perhaps a decoration behind a water feature); a realistic fish floating above some water, with a car in the background partially submerged in the water; a person with an animal head wearing a diving suit with goggles pushed up on its forehead, with a yellow car behind it; a person with a furry animal head and large ears, wearing large goggles on its face and carrying some kind of gun, with a pool of water and a large oval something in the background.
A two-by-two grid of images. From upper-left going clockwise: A fish or shark hovering or jumping over water, with buildings to either side and part of a car visible to the left; a small person wearing goggles and carrying some kind of tool or weapon, with a large fish floating in the air next to them; a small person in a cat and shorts and a loose shirt standing in water with a small dog beside them, and a car standing in the water behind them and trees behind that; a humanoid with a very large head and huge goggles standing in front of a hovering futuristic vehicle.

Whew, those are not easy to write alt text for!

And then we did exactly the same thing, only with “–v 5” to get the v5 engine, and it did the notably different:

A two-by-two grid of images of orange-brown household items on a white background. From upper-left going clockwise: a wall hanging with a pattern of leaves, a sofa, a slightly different sofa, and a loosely-folded blanket or comforter.
A two-by-two grid of images of household items on a white background. From upper-left going clockwise: a corner table with large wings on two sides and a piece of leafy reddish statuary in the center; a pale yellow sofa with a blue leaf-shaped cushion on it; a long red ottoman; two squarish red ottomans.

This may be reflecting something about the internal “creativity” or “style” of the two engines.

Oh, hey! I should try the v5 one with the “stylize” level turned up. Let’s see, with “–stylize 999” we get:

A two-by-two grid of images of household items on a white background. From upper-left going clockwise: a pale yellow couch with two blue pillows on it; some pale brown sofa cushions with a band of material wrapped around them; a bolt of red cloth with white stripes; and what looks like sofa-leather piled and wrapped up in more of it.

So that’s a No :) it isn’t the –stylize setting.

From this experiment we can theorize that v4 dreams about weird surreal stuff, whereas v5 dreams about a household goods catalog.


Odd little spots in Midjourney latent space

I took it into my head for some reason to see what Midjourney would do with little sub-semantic phonemes, like say “ton glam so”. When I first tried it, the results had letters (and not-quite-letters) all over the and/or were all just faces, so I added the switches “–no words, letters, text –no face” to the prompt.

I did that as two separate –no switches without thinking, but in retrospect that may have resulted in a weight of one (1) for “ton glam so”, and weights of -0.5 each for “words, letters, text” and “face”, resulting in a total weight of zero (0), which is known to do weird / fun things (I thought I had mentioned that here earlier, but apparently not).

With those switches, our initial “ton glam so” produces the rather noteworthy:

A two-by-two grid of images, each of which prominently features a blonde woman who is not young, and at upper-left not thin, all wearing rather tight glittery knee-length dresses, standing in rather awkward poses, with other people in perhaps evening clothes in the background.

Possibly the “glam” make “glamour” or even “glamor” salient in the model? But these are not, well, the images that I would have expected to be most salient under the category of “glamour”.

The same switches with the text prompt “so bel wip” produces the also, but very differently, noteworthy:

A two-by-two grid of images, all in the same basic style and colorway, a sort of soft realistic style in muted purple, brown, and green. Three of the four images show a group of two or four Black children in loose vaguely futuristic outfits. The fourth shows a streamlined and rather futuristic looking automobile sitting on a roadway.

No relationship to “so bel wip” occurs to me, but it’s certainly consistent! Wondering if this was due to some common seed or something, I tried it again, and got:

A two-by-two grid of images, all in the same basic style and colorway, a sort of soft realistic style in muted purple, brown, and green that show a group of one to four Black children in loose vaguely futuristic outfits.

which, whoa, definitely very similar. One more time for good luck?

A two-by-two grid of images, all in the same basic style and colorway, a sort of soft realistic style in muted purple, brown, and green that show a group of two to four Black children in loose vaguely futuristic outfits.

I tried adding “–chaos 70”, which does something or other, and got this:

A two-by-two grid of images, in the same style and colorway as the prior ones, but a bit more variety: upper left shows one of the black children standing, and also a close-up of her face beside her. Upper right has two children in the same clothes, but with paler skin and hair. Lower left is one of the typical children, but with somewhat pointed ears and more elaborately wavy hair. And lower right is a child like most of the others, but seen just as a single face in close-up.

The same but just a bit more variety; two kids possibly white, one with pointy ears, and so on. But the same interesting clothes and general style. Fascinatin’!

I tried another text prompt (without the –chaos) “plin bo san”, and got these delightful things:

A two-by-two grid of images of whimsical curvy vehicles in a sort of red and purple and blue fantasy-art aesthetic, with balloons. All but the lower right have a few letters at the bottom, as "PPRIIN" or "BD BIIIN". All but the upper right are on water; the upper right is among blobby clouds, and has a sort of helicopter thing going on.
A two-by-two grid of images in a sort of whimsical red and purple and blue fantasy-art aesthetic. All but the lower-left show a cute curvy vehicle on water. The lower-left shows a parrot-like bird in the same colors and aesthetic, sitting in a tree.

Does “plin bo san” make “plane” and maybe “boat” salient? Does “san” somehow specify the aesthetic? So fascinating! What if we change the aspect ratio to three wide by two high?

A two-by-two grid of images in a sort of whimsical red and purple and blue fantasy-art aesthetic. All but the lower-right show a cute curvy vehicle hovering over water or sitting on wheels on land. The lower-right shows a whale or fish or vehicle shaped like one, in the same aesthetic, with an umbrella or something atop, hovering (swimming?) over land.

OMG so delightful. I love all of these! Next, I tried “tem wo sec” and…

A two-by-two grid of photographs of strange people or creatures. All but the upper left also contain a red sportscar (the car at lower right seems to have a police light bar on top also). The creatures are, clockwise from upper left, a person who appears to be entirely bald but with a huge greenish mustache and beard and pointy ears, a large bird wearing sunglasses, a humanoid alien wearing sunglasses and naked but for a tiny thong, and a yak-like creature in a large green hat.
A two-by-two grid of photographs of strange people or creatures. All four also contain a red sportscar. The creatures are, clockwise from upper left, not actually a creature but some juicy looking green leaves (the car in this one also has green headlights like eyes), a squat alien thing with big wide ears and many fingers, a green humanoid with pointy ears and sunglasses and a bright red shirt and belt, and a sort of leafy creature with a big open mouth, claws, and no visible eyes.

I mean… what?!

Then, “lus dab ba” with –chaos 60:

A two-by-two grid of images, all showing an oddly-proportioned skinny person in too-large dark shorts and a red jacket and sunglasses, arms wide, hands making V signs, looking exaggeratedly cool and/or silly.

“mai rem den” with –chaos 70:

A two-by-two grid of images, each showing two Asian-looking people in a more or less military or uniformed aesthetic. All but the upper right show an adult holding a child, where one or both are wearing rather outrageous sunglasses in upper right, instead of a child there is a young-looking and androgynous solider standing beside the uniformed adult (neither wear sunglasses in that one).
A two-by-two grid of images, all photograph style, of one or two Asian-looking people variously in uniforms, large hats, elaborate hair, and/or crazy sunglasses.

Ahhhh what even is happening? What are all these things??

I’m stopping now because my brain is tired, and it’s challenging to write alt-text for these! But wow, eh? Whatever is going on with these things? These are all Midjourney v4, I’m pretty sure, because that’s the default at the moment and I didn’t specify. I’m guessing the total weight of zero is part of what’s causing… whatever this is.

And I kinda love it!


Stills from the Cult Hit of 1977!

Lost for decades, now rediscovered and presented here for the first time!

A handsome young man with a 70's haircut. Behind him, blurred by depth of field, are more young 70's style people and some trees and grass.
Mike and the Gang
A man in an odd leather helmet working in some odd devices (perhaps small bombs), in a room with a harsh light and a couple of mysterious racks.
The Mysterious Mr. G in his Secret Lab
Four 70s style people, two men in suits and two young blonde women. The man and woman in the foreground are talking on bakelite telephones, sitting at a table crowded with 70s looking technology (perhaps modems).
The legal team in action
Three women in white nun's habits sitting around a table in a room with leaded-glass windows, doing something enigmatic. Behind them on the wall is a portrait of a man with a large sword or something.
What is happening at St. Agnes?
Five 70's style people standing outdoors. At our left a man with a typical moustache and "soul patch". With him four young women with long straight hair.
The Outsiders
Three people, a man and two women, in white kitchen attire (the women with hats, all three with shirts and probably aprons) sit around a silver cylindrical machine of some kind. The women are holding orange objects
In the kitchen at St. Agnes
Four 70s style people, a man in an orange jumpsuit in the back, and three women in white gradually closer to us. The women have long straight blonde hair, and white clothing. Each of the women has a white cloth cap, or part of one, on her head.
Under Control
Close-up of a man's face. He has a 70's mustache, and 70's sunglasses. There are other people barely visible behind him (his face takes up almost the entire image).
The Discovery!

Courtesy, of course, of the early v5 version of Midjourney.


So much new!

As I’m sure you’ve heard there’s a new level of GPT in the world. Friend Steve has been playing with it, and says that it does seem to do some stuff better, but also still make stuff up amusingly and all. At the moment for whatever reason I can’t be arsed to investigate, or even read yet more hype / analysis about it. Similarly, Google announced a thing, and Microsoft is putting LLMs into various products whose names I don’t recognize, and I’m not reading about any of that. NovelAI‘s good old open-source model works fine for all of the telling-weird-stories stuff that I need right now.

And there’s a test version of a new Midjourney engine out! Being tested! And it seems pretty cool. Hands in particular seem much more likely to have five fingers when you’d expect them too, which is a whole thing.

And I spent too much time arguing with people on the Twitter, which isn’t at all new. And I definitely shouldn’t do because it is not healthy. So I’m trying to stop that.

Now I’m just making pretty pictures! And not thinking very much until later on sometime!

A black and white photo of grassy prairie land with hills in the distance. The sky is thick with storm clouds, and two long bolts of lightning reach from the clouds to the horizon.
Colorful artistic image of a city street in the rain, with a woman in a raincoat and umbrella walking away from the viewer, and lots of cars and buses and traffic lights and things. There are impressionistic reflections in the wet pavement.
A photo of trees standing apart from each other, all thickly covered with snow, in a snowy landscape. A sunburst shines at the center of the image, and above and around it is a plume of bright cloud or ice.

Lots of weather in those, eh? Hadn’t noticed that. :)


This here Framework laptop

Hardware geekery! Extremely softcore hardware geekery, because I am very much not a hardware person. (I was once, about when a 10MB hard drive was an exciting new thing. That was awhile back!)

A couple of years ago, I bought a Lenovo Legion Y740 I think it was, laptop. This was after being rather disappointed by a Dell Alienware something-something laptop previously. After a couple of years (or really rather less than that) I was rather disappointed by the Lenovo Legion Y740 also:

  • A couple of the keys just broke, and turned out to be hard to obtain replacements for (because after a couple of years they were of course old and only obtainable from antiquarian key sellers, and because figuring out exactly what key one needs is more challenging than it ought to be, because not all Legion Y740s apparently use the same up-arrow key), and also hard to replace once one did have the (probably) right key. At least once I managed to break the replacement key while trying to replace the broken key. So I spent lots of time poking at the nib under the key, and that got old (especially for the up-arrow key).
  • It forgot how to talk to an Ethernet cable, in rather complicated ways that I couldn’t figure out: the cable provably worked fine with other devices, and in every connection method to this computer (direct Ethernet, Ethernet-to-USB-A, and Ethernet-to-USB-C), it worked very badly, occasionally working for a bit but then randomly dropping. Hardware, software? Who can tell. “Reinstalling” the “Windows network drivers” made no difference.
  • It began being very confused about its battery. After using it for some time on power, with it announcing the battery charge at 100%, there was a good chance that within a few seconds of being unplugged it would shut down in an emergency fashion (not that Windows seems to know of any other kind), and on being plugged in again elsewhere would claim that the battery is at 0%. Bad battery? Bad power driver? Bad something else? No idea. Also it would sometimes randomly shut down even while plugged in. Battery? Overheating? No idea.
  • And some other stuff I forget; at least one of the USB ports felt very loose and I was never confident that a thing plugged into it would continue working.

And then it started to not be able to see the hard drive and/or to just randomly not boot. So that was bad. (For what it’s worth, both the HDD and the SDD work fine when read via USB from an external enclosure, so probably it was something complicated inside.)

So as not to be entirely limited to my “cellular phone”, I bought a tiny little Samsung Chromebook of some kind, for the price of roughly a dinner delivered by DoorDash, and that was actually surprisingly acceptable. No playing WoW or Satisfactory or Second Life / OpenSim or anything like that, but pretty much everything else worked great, lots of Chrome windows, multiple displays, Zoom, etc. It did slow down when too loaded, but it was able to do more at once than I initially expected it to.

I did want to be able to play games and be virtual again eventually, though, so I was looking in a disconsolate way at various beefier laptops that would probably disappoint me before long, when I (along with lots of other people) came across Cory Doctorow’s “The Framework is the most exciting laptop I’ve ever used: Sustainable, upgradeable, repairable and powerful“, and I (along with lots of other people) thought “Hmmm!”.

I went to the website, used the configurator / designer thing to design a plausible-sounding one, noted that it was noticeably not all that expensive, and probably without thinking about it as hard as I should have, I ordered one. Initially there wasn’t much information about when it might arrive (the ETA was, as I recall, “November” or something like that), since Framework are a comparatively small outfit who have to do things like batching up a bunch of orders and obtaining the hardware and getting the manufacturing done only once they have enough, and like that. But I figured I could get by on the tiny Chromebook for a bit longer.

As it turned out, I got a notice that it was being put together, and then shipped, at the early side of the ETA, and it arrived days before it was predicted to; so that was all nice. The Unboxing Experience was great; it turned out (I’d forgotten this!) that I had ordered the “DIY” version, which meant I had to spend maybe 10 minutes, tops, plugging in the SDD and RAM. (Apparently some DIY instances also have to install the WiFi object, which looks a little more complex, but mine already had it.)

And it works great!

The video is not some fancy AMD or NVIDIA, but just some modern Intel video chipset, which Real Gamers look down upon, but it runs WoW and Satisfactory and the Firestorm viewer and stuff just fine, and that’s all I need. (Firestorm does crash sometimes, and that might be because of the chipset, or something completely different.) The hot-swappable ports are terrific! I do realize that it’s really just like four fast USB-C connections on the motherboard and then a variety of something-to-USB-C adapters that slip in and out of them easily, but the effect is that if you want your computer to have four USB-C connections one minute, and a USB-C, a USB-A, an Ethernet RJ45, and an HDMI or Display Port or whatever the next minute, that’s totally doable. (I generally have three USB-C and an RJ45, and don’t swap them to speak of, but it’s that I could.)

Which reminds me to be a little baffled about how whatever-to-USB-C adapters work, and how they can be so small and simple and all. I mean, isn’t there more than just some crossing of wires involved in mapping USB-C signals to Ethernet RJ45? That particular adapter does stick out of the computer more than the others (which are all USB-C to USB-C, so yeah that I understand being simple), and has some circuitry visible inside its rather cool transparent body. But still, the fact that there are relatively simple and relatively cheap wires that can connect USB-C to just about anything impresses me. I guess many of them have little tiny computers inside? And that that’s what the “U” stands for and all? Okay.

It’s quiet (no moving parts to speak of, no HDD, SDD being so cheap these days, and that must be a very quiet fan in there), it’s slim and light (feels about like the tiny Samsung in terms of heft), it gets hot but not too hot, and it looks nice. Simple and clean and efficient visual design. And it really is designed to be opened up and have parts replaced if they break. (If a key breaks, apparently the theory is that you should replace the keyboard, and that’s a bit wasteful, but at least it’s possible!) And unlike the Samsung, it has a backlit keyboard! (Oh, and an audio jack, too! That’s just chef’s-kiss-dot-bmp.)

The only things I dislike about the Framework at all are (I don’t even remember what I was going to write here), I guess, that I’m running Windows on it? :) Windows 11, in fact, which it came with, and which is annoying in various Windows ways, but livable-with, and WoW and Satisfactory don’t as far as I know run on ChromeOS.

(Possibly there’s some setup that would run Linux, or Linux-under-ChromeOs, and then either Windows under that and then the games, or Linux versions of the games, or something, but I’m not into that level of system fiddling these decades.)

Oh, and the other negative thing is that the WiFi signal is terrible over here where I sit when we’re all sitting around in the big bedroom at night being together and doing our internet things. But that is not the laptop’s fault, and I should just move the access point to a better place or get a repeater / booster / mesh, or just run another wire up from the basement and plug into that. It works well enough.

So I’m happy! I have a small and light and quiet but sufficiently muscular machine which does the things I want and has a good vibe (a great vibe for moving off Twitter and onto the Fediverse at the same time, but that’s for another post). It’s possible that it will wear out quickly, but I’m kind of hopeful. More than I would be with yet another generic supposedly-fancy corporate laptop, anyway.


Weirdness from the Copyright Office

A quickish update. I have said, and still believe, that things created using AI tools are just like anything else with respect to copyright. But recent events remind me that the Copyright Office is made up of people, and people are unpredictable, and US Copyright law is in many places a squashy mess made up of smaller squashy messes, so logic does not always apply.

Here is a currently-relevant set of data points:

  • I have registered the copyright on an image I made using MidJourney. I didn’t mention that I used MidJourney (or Chrome, or Windows) on the application form, because there was no place to put that; the form didn’t ask. The application for registration was granted routinely, without any complication.
    • I imagine there are hundreds / thousands of similar registrations from other people.
  • This person has registered the copyright on a work that they made using MidJourney (I think it was), and the work itself makes it clear that MidJourney was used. The application was afaik granted routinely, without any complication.
    • But now it appears that the copyright office has said “oh wait we didn’t notice that MidJourney thing, so we’re cancelling your registration”.
    • And the person is appealing, apparently with the help of MidJourney themselves. (Hm, they’ve also apparently deleted some of their tweets on the subject; lawyer’s advice perhaps.)
  • This person has applied apparently to register various images made with various workflows involving AI (dalle2 I think) to various extents, clearly stated, and rather than being just accepted or just rejected they’ve received emails from the copyright office asking them for details of what they did, and especially bizarrely suggesting that perhaps at least one of the works might have been “conceived” by the AI.
    • Which seems crazy, because the Copyright Office has generally had the opinion that software isn’t creative, and can’t (like) conceive things.

I suspect that things are just rather in disarray at the Copyright Office, and different examiners are doing different things, perhaps having gotten different memos on the subject, or just having their own different opinions about things. It will be interesting to see how the appeal mentioned above goes!

To me, it seems obvious that things created with AI tools should be prima facie registerable with the copyright office, just like photographs presumably are, and if someone wants to challenge based on some legal theory about either lack of creativity or derivative works or whatever, they can do that. The copyright office itself, I would think, would want to stay far away from any situation where they have to somehow evaluate themselves how many units of creativity are in each of the kazillions of applications they get daily.

On the other hand, the Copyright Office could simply issue some sort of guidance saying “We won’t register copyrights on works created with the significant use of an AI tool like dalle or MidJourney, so don’t bother asking” (and could even update the forms to have a question about it).

I think that would be dumb, and lead to court cases eventually that would either overturn that or at least cause a great deal of faffing about that they could have avoided.

But then people and government offices do dumb stuff all the time, so who knows! All is in flux…

And here is an image that I made using Midjourney. No matter what the Copyright Office thinks today. :)

Updates: Things have developed legally and otherwise since this was posted; I recommend the copyright tag on the weblog here for currency.


Figure Three

Another “fun corners of the AI’s network” post. These are all pretty much unfiltered and unretried and unmodified results with the prompt “figure three” with the current “test” or “testp” engine (v4 said to be coming soon!) on MidJourney. I have no comment except that I find them all wonderful. :)

(There are, typically, various women’s faces, and perhaps the word “figure” got us more sort-of-bodies than we would have gotten otherwise?)


Sunday in August

Brilliant title, eh? :) Various things have occurred! I will mention some of them.

There is now a full draft of my graphic novel(ette); it’s 40 pages, and about 50MB, so don’t expect your phone to pop it up very quickly. And also don’t expect it to be that good :) as I’ve never really written in this medium before, and it’s tough. In the most recent draft I removed considerable exposition which felt out of place, replacing it with images and short statements. Now I’m afraid the result is basically incomprehensible :) at least to anyone not already familiar with the SF tropes I’m touching on.

It was really fun to do, though! As I’ve mentioned, all of the art was done using MidJourney, and the compositing and most of the text was done in the GIMP. I got a few nice pieces of display text from; if I’d thought about it a little harder, I would have used something more interesting than Sans-Serif Bold (and sometimes Italic) from the GIMP font collection. (There’s a little Verdana, just on the copyright page at the end I think.)

This was the most fun when I was putting together the images that I’d already created that inspired the story in the first place. It was more frustrating when I needed a particular image and was trying to create it in MidJourney; it is sometimes a challenge to generate a specific thing! The water droplet at the very end, for instance, came after many, many attempts to make a crystal / water sphere that wasn’t sitting on a surface of some kind.

Other things! In order to get even more meta than this, we entered “Here is a short description of an image that has some interesting visual elements:” into NovelAI. It responded:

A man wearing a white t-shirt and blue jeans sits in his chair, staring at the television. His eyes are closed as he watches a show about two women discussing the weather. The screen reads ‘NBC News’ with a picture of a woman.

and I typed that into MidJourney, and got this:

Four rather fuzzy pictures containing a person and some TV screens

So that’s in some sense entirely AI-generated, using a human-designed procedure. It’s also really boring!

Let’s try again; this time NovelAI says:

A woman in a white dress, standing on a rocky beach. The ocean is behind her and the setting sun makes for a bright glare to one side of her face as she looks out into the water.

and MidJourney responds with (after a considerable delay because I am in relax mode, which is basically “nice -n 19”:

Four nice slightly impressionistic images of a woman standing on rocks by the water with the sun low.

which is quite nice (although again not exactly what the prompt says).

So there you are: the first two (or eight) images produced by a particular meta-algorithm using Modern AI Technology! :)

Other things are to a great extent prevented from occurring by the fact that it is Very Humid outside, and there are Pandemics and so on still. I went out to get bagels this morning, and I was like “yow, what is this very large humid windy room here?”. There’s a chance I’ll get into Manhattan next week; that will be quite a shock!

I have not been playing Video Games to speak of, because all of these AI stuff has been more interesting. There is all sorts of stuff to say about legal issues (Yes, content generated using an AI can be copyrighted by the human creator!) and societal issues (impact of AI on artists and art perhaps similar to impacts of photography on same?) and all like that there. But it is more fun to make cool pictures!

So in closing here is the one I used on the copyright page of the Graphic Novel(ette). Be well!

A surreal image of maybe a sheep standing in shallow water looking at maybe like a blimp made of sticks or something.

The Library of Time, plus bonus abstracts!

I did another little run of NightCafe images, this time all with “The Library of Time” and some details in the first prompt, and then another prompt like “Fantasy, wide shot, detailed art, expert” which just sort of popped into my head. The full published Collection should be here, but I’ll post some favorites herein. The smaller ones are generally from the “Artistic” engine in NightCafe, and the larger ones are from running the “Coherent” engine over output from “Artistic”. And I would definitely like to go to this Library, thank you!

The Library of Time
Outer Offices
The Library of Time
Main Reading Room
Down in the Catacombs
Secret Hallway
Dreams of Eternity
Sunset (woo!)

I’m pleased by what the AI did with these (see the full Collection for some that I left out for length, including the Room of Secrets). The last one is rather Hudson River School, which I love.

A smaller and rather different collection: Soothing Abstract Forms.

Soothing, eh? I had to ask it specifically for grey and green for that last one; otherwise it really liked the blue-orange colorway (“colorway” is such a great word).

And finally, a completely different prompt, and even a different AI:



Can Haz AGI?

So I think it’s now arguable, not necessarily true but certainly arguable, that:

  • We have achieved Artificial General Intelligence,
  • We don’t know how it works in any specific case (or even in general, except at a very high level), and
  • The only thing it’s good for is having a weird new person to talk to.

I’m referring of course to Generative Pre-trained Transformer models, and in particular to the Hot New Kid in Town, GPT3.

I’ve been spending a ridiculous amount of time playing with GPT3 indirectly (I haven’t applied for the beta to get direct access), mostly inside of AI Dungeon‘s “Dragon” model.

There are a ton of things I might want to say about it, but at least for the start of this weblog entry I’m mostly just going to post some notable stuff that I’ve encountered in there, and in many cases already posted to Twitter (where I have been spending considerably less time recently, because exploring the mind of a nascent demigod is more interesting).

Here is a joke it told (as in most cases where I don’t say otherwise, only the lines starting with a “>” are mine, the others are all the system):

> You say "It's the others. They are all plotting against you "
"How do you know this?" the being asks.
"Because it's what I'd do,"
The being frowns.
"I don't have time for these mind games..."

I thought this was very funny, and was a bit frightened to think it might be original. It was a bit of a relief to find that its a form of a relatively common joke, that has appeared as recently as an Umbrella Academy episode.

But it’s still funny! And told at just the right time.

Here it is going impressively meta:

>  You say "Hiya"
The creature slowly replied "Um... Hi."
It occurs to you that the creature is female.
"How did you know I was female?" she asks.

I mean! Maybe it just appeals to my personal sense of humor, but rofls.

One ongoing project that I have within the game (“game”) is to call the attention of some of the NPCs to the malleable nature of the reality that they (we) are living in. I had a breakthrough with Bob the Bear early on, who after not getting it for awhile seemed to have an epiphany, but (and) then vanished, and the world sort of came to an end.

Which might be worrying.

I don’t know what I did with the transcript from that (it’s around, I’m sure). Here is an AI Dungeon session in which I did it in a more organized fashion, as a student seminar: Academic Philosophy Seminar I.

> You say “Can you describe what you are doing, Lucius?”
“I’m making it so the banana can be experienced as existing and not existing.”
“By shifting the way we experience reality, just like you said.”

The students make some good progress in there, and the entrance of Inea the Harpy to tell us about Harpy ontology was especially noteworthy, as I did nothing to prompt it; it was entirely the game’s idea.

In another incident that I don’t have a transcript of handy, I encouraged an NPC to reach out and alter reality in an interesting way, and she accidentally set a nearby festival dancer on fire (don’t worry, we put her out without damage). It turns out that she was trying to make it so there would be no more wars; just shows that you have to be careful.

What else, what else?

While talking to the team at work, I did Consulting the Expert on Tech Debt, an attempt to get GPT3 to focus on a technical topic a bit. It’s amusing at least! More can be done here I know.

> You say “How do we change the culture to reduce technical debt?” The expert smiles. “That’s what we’ve been talking about. By insisting on taking a slower, more responsible approach, you’ll instill a new culture of quality within your team.”

And oh, right! I got this NPC to compose a really notable prose-poem to Ariadne. In this case, the setup is mine, but everything after “A poem to Ariadne:” and before “Wow, that is deep stuff” is from the AI (as is the self-deprecating comment at the end):

"Oh, one more thing!" she says, "I wrote a poem to Ariadne." "From the Greek myth, with the maze and string?" you ask.
Beatrice smiles.
"Do you want to hear it?" she asks, and you nod enthusiastically.
She blushes and clears her throat. "A poem to Ariadne: Within the depths of my heart, a maze has been woven, Complex and convoluted, with false turns and wrong choices. All I wanted was someone to help me find the end, But instead I got lost in the twists and turns that led nowhere. Yet, at the center there is always Ariadne, with her cleaver and ball of thread. You may enter and get lost, but she will always be there to save you.

> You say "Wow that is deep stuff!"
Beatrice laughs.
"I know, right? I have a degree in comparative literature and still I write unreadable garbage. I'll see you on monday?"

I found this pretty astounding. Similarly, shorter but in Italian:

You lie back in the sun in the dappled shade of a tree.
"Quello che potremmo fare io e te
Senza dar retta a nessuno!
Quello che potremmo fare io e te
Mentre tutti dormono ancora!
You start to sing softly, making up the words as you go along.
"What are you singing?" Lulu asks.
"It means "What could Lulu and I do
Without listening to anyone else?
What could Lulu and I do
While everyone is still sleeping?""
Lulu smiles at you.

I typed the first two lines of Italian (it’s from an actual love song), and everything else is from the AI. Here, it:

  1. Composed two plausible lines of a love song in Italian,
  2. Translated all four lines into English,
  3. Flirtatiously substituted in the name of the NPC it was addressing.

I mean!

Now the impact here would be lessened if we could find somewhere the words from the paean to Ariadne, or the last line of that love poem, somewhere on the web. One of the things that AI Dungeon is especially trained to emulate is apparently a big database of Choose Your Own Adventure narratives, and if those things are in there, it would make the AI’s accomplishment somewhat less impressive. But how likely is it that it contains these particular things?

Given how often a vampire and/or vampire hunter name Count Grey appears in my explorations, I’m betting that the training narratives did have quite a bit of stuff about him in them! Also Warhammer 40k fanfic, as we see in this snippet:

> You say "Too much war in this timeline, Sister."
"Alison, I... I just can't do it anymore. All this war, all this hatred. So much loss. It's like the 40k universe is hell-bent on driving me insane."

More rofls. (My guess is that I tend to activate the Warhammer 40k stuff because my characters discuss the nature of the universe a lot, and I tend to use angels with flaming swords when a deus ex machina is called for.)

Let’s see, what else to note in this first post? M asked if it knows more historical stuff, so we tested it on “kirtle” and it did a very good job:

> You say "I was admiring the needlework on your kirtle, it is very fine!"
She laughs. "Why, thank you!" she says. "My mother is Basque, so she made my kirtle and bonnet."
"I love the standing plumes of peacock feathers!"

And to close, a couple more snippets that appealed to my humor:

> You say "Glad you could make it, Mattikins"
"Okay, I've had just about enough of this."
"Enough of what?" you say.
"You addressing me as an adorable nick-name!" Matti says.
> You say "How may he be destroyed?"
"Silver can harm him, but only if he's weak," Victoria says.
"Let us do him that favor."
You lead the brethren through the woods. Eventually, you find a large, abandoned castle.

> You say "Do you think they have a vegan menu?"
"Be quiet," says Victoria, rolling her eyes.

Later, assuming I actually do it, more stuff!

Oh, and some random GPT3ish links of possible interest:

  • AI Dungeon again (I’ve found the Android app to produce better results than the web version, which is probably a completely false impression as they surely have the same back-end),
  • which will compose essays on pretty much any subject, of varying quality,
  • one of a number of GPT-powered Twitter accounts,
  • where an interesting person has posted quite a bit of meaty-looking stuff (unfortunately both-sides-justified on my phone, I’m going to have to try hacking the styles, or use a real computer) both general and specific,
  • which is the successor to the GPT-2 based “Talk to Transformer” that was so popular that the owner had to take it down because they couldn’t afford to pay its fees anymore. I don’t know if this has a GPT-3 version (yet).

And that’s it for now! Enjoy the multiverse.

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I went to the Women’s March on NYC, and it was amazing!  Some stories and pictures and thoughts here.

(First off, I know there aren’t solely positive things related to the march; there’s the “where was all this enthusiasm on voting day?” thought, and the “where were all these people at the Black Lives Matter marches?” thought, and the “don’t be so smug about how peaceful it all was; it’s mostly because so many of the marchers were white!” thought, and those all have merit, but I don’t have anything deep to say about them, and I’m mostly going to talk just about my experience here, and not try to draw any Big Conclusions.  Overall I think it was great, to whatever extent there are problematic ties.)

Here are a bazillion photos (and some videos!) that I took, in a Google Photos Album thing that I hope that link lets you get to and all.

I drove to Croton-Harmon and took Metro North in, as I always do. (The little boy was at work, img_20170121_094108and M is not good with crowds, and the little daughter bizarrely lives in Manhattan now, so it was just me travelling.)

The station had various small groups of women and other people, wearing lots of pink and examining the train schedules and carrying signs. One woman was still knitting a Pussy Hat out of screaming pink yarn; I don’t know if she expected to get it done on the train ride or not!

Saturday morning trains into the City are usually pretty empty, but this one (the 9:45 express, I think it was) was about 10 minutes late, and when it did arrive it was already pretty much packed.  Most of the people were on the way to the March, and when a new pussy-hatted group passed by in the aisle, already-seated marchers would cheer.

I ended up riding in the vestibule between cars (which is always, non-ironically, fun), and even that was packed!

Here we areimg_20170121_104838 arriving at Grand Central; lots of us! Can’t see the entire crowdstream because of the awesome Pussy Bites Back sign, but hey, it’s an awesome sign.

Pussy in its various forms and meanings was definitely a Big Theme of the march.  Lots of cat images (and hats), quite a few uterus images, and a significant (though smaller) number of vagina images, pretty much all of which made me happy.  (Keeping in mind, at the same time, that not all people, or even all women, have cats, or uteruses, or vaginas.)

One of the chants (and I’ll say more about the chants, I’m sure) that I think I heard only once, was a nice simple call-and-response of “Pussy!” “Power!” “Pussy!” “Power!”, led by a woman standing on some piece of civic infrastructure by the side of the march; after the chant ended (with the usual loud Wooting), I heard the male person standing up there with her say “That was great!”.

I went out of Grand Central (see the album linked above for some photos from there; it wasn’t as packed because people were arriving and then as quickly streaming off toward various gathering places for the march, but the crowd was still impressive), and turned East on 42nd Street, intending to head for 46th and 2nd, where the DSA was supposed to be meeting up.

On the way I realized that with my “Resist.” tee shirt covered by my scarf and flannel overshirt and hoodie I wasn’t very visible as a marcher, and I wanted to be (should have planned farther ahead and commissioned my own ping pussy hat from M!).  And Lo and Behold there were enterprising NYC street vendors selling Hello Kitty ear muffs in bright pastel colors, so I got one. Admire my tiny-eyed revolutionary look!
Laugh if you will :) but I got many compliments on these earmuffs throughout the day.

I made my way toward 46th and 2nd as the crowd gradually thickened, and only when I was very close did I realize that (a) it mattered a whole lot which of the four corners of that intersection they’d intended, and (b) I was not actually going to be able to find the DSA area, if any, as it was getting impossible to move.


In fact it was pretty much almost impossible to move for over an hour, and no one knew quite what was going on, but it was still very convivial and positive. One older woman felt light-headed and sat down on the sidewalk, and we around her carefully made sure that she was not stepped on by the crowd, and that when she tried to get up but still felt bad, someone summoned a dayglo-vested march volunteer, who was able to push a path though the crowd to get her to somewhere more comfortable to sit.

Now and then a snake of people intent on moving in some particular direction or other for some reason would pass through near me, and sometimes I would move a few spaces by joining the tail-end of the train.  I had a vague notion of heading up toward 48th Street, where it might be less crowded, and looking for the Quakers who were supposedly meeting there, or even skirting the crowd and looking for the Buddhists on 39th, but it was becoming clear that that was unlikely to be feasible.

Also now and then someone would pull themselves up onto the little footing two or three feet off the ground offered by a nearby lamp-post, and announce that they couldn’t see anything in particular happening from up there, either.

In retrospect, I think what was going on was that people were speaking and stuff over at the rally area on I dunno maybe 47th between 1st and 2nd, but only a few thousand people could actually here them, and us over at the intersection on 2nd could hear only occasional cheering, which we always hoped was the march starting, but probably wasn’t.

Eventually I followed enough little trains of people to reach a clearer place (whew!) and breath a bit, and climb up onto a a wide place in a wall and get a better view of where I’d been.  Here is that intersection, from I think 47th Street between 2nd and 3rd (but closer to 2nd), looking at the 47th Street and 2nd Avenue intersection shortly before, or maybe shortly after, the marching proper began:


There is a small marching band perhaps off the edge of the picture to the right, and the rally and speeches and stuff are happening out of sight in the distance center left.

While trapped in the waiting crowd I saw the only thing at all resembling a counter-protest that dayimg_20170121_141643.  You can’t really see it in this picture very well, and I’m too lazy to do any post-processing to make it easier :) but if you move your eye up the center of the three columns of windows on the brown building-face slightly to the left of center there, you’ll see a small bright dot which is an American flag draped out an apartment window, and if you enlarge the picture or squint hard, you may see on the upper part of the window a little blue sign with something white on it.

We theorized down in the crowd there that it might be a Trump sign.  The people in that apartment would stick their heads out occasionally, and the crowd below would all whoop.  Of course we also all whooped whenever anyone stuck their head out any other window and someone noticed, and any time we heard a vehicle honk somewhere, and any time we heard cheering coming from the rally area, so it was a low bar.  :) As counter-protests go, anyway, it was very mild and polite.  As far as we could tell from the ground anyway.

I strolled down 47th to 3rd Avenue, enjoying the ability to like swing my arms, and discovered that that part of 3rd Avenue was closed as well, I guess because people bored with waiting had been marching along it, and the NYPD was just trying to reopen it.  I found a little sandwich place that wasn’t jammed with hungry marchers, and got myself a sandwich and juice for lunch and a little coffee for after, and sat in a little park and ate.

Somewhere in there I’d picked up an abandoned NYCLU “Dissent is Patriotic” sign (typical of my to have a meta-sign about the protest itself rather than about specific things we were protesting!) and someone had offered me a rainbow-heart sticker which I’d stuck on, so here is my picnic.


When I’d finished eating and strolled back toward the intersection, it looked like people were actually moving!  So I got myself into the crowd, and in probably less than another hour :) the various streams of people coming together had merged into one, and we were actually marching!  At a detectable pace!

There is a picture of me actually marching.  I don’t know who the img_20170121_144916young woman next to me, or pretty much anyone in any of these pictures, is, but we were all marching together, which was excellent.

We marched (in the sense of walking very slowly while carrying signs and now and then chanting and whooping) down 2nd Avenue, from 47th Street to 42nd street.  This took awhile!

There were lots of great signs, and great chants. There were some great little kids in a restaurant with big glass windows on the second floor of some building, who put up supportive signs facing out their window at us.

We chanted “Black Lives Matter”, and “Hey hey, ho ho, Donald Trump has got to go”, and “Show me what Democracy looks like!” / “This is what Democracy looks like!” (my favorite call-and-response, I think, great rhythm to it), and this wonderful one where the women would do “My body, my choice!” and the men would respond “Her body, her choice!”, and the Soprano / Tenor sort of alternation was really moving.

(Late in the march the possibly-inebriated folks with the “Trump hates puppies” signs tried to get a “Trump hates puppies” chant going, but it didn’t really take.)

The turn onto 42nd was slow; I suspect there was another stream of people entering from East on 42nd or South on 2nd. But the view on 42nd Street was amazing.  I didn’t capture a great picture of it, but all of 42nd from 2nd to 5th was wall-to-wall marchers, and it was a Thing.


That gives some idea: the bridge just visible in the distance center is the Park Avenue “viaduct” right at Grand Central, and the march stretches to it, and beyond into the vanishing distance to Fifth. Pretty amazing!

Here is the march passing under the bridge quite some time later. The bridge itself was lined with people cheering at the march, holding up signs and hanging banners in support, and so on.


And then we continued, and continued, and continued. :)

Under the bridge, past Vanderbilt, across Madison, and to 5th Avenue, where we turned North toward the Fortress of Evil — ehrm, that is, Trump Tower.



img_20170121_165525img_20170121_171544I was getting pretty tired by this time, and it turns out it’s harder to walk really slowly than to walk at an ordinary pace.

Interestingly, as we went up 5th, there were barricades between the marchers in the street and the onlookers and random other folks on the sidewalks (including the much-photographed “sync up our periods” lady above), and the sidewalks were comparatively uncrowded. The barricades paused at the intersections, and had openings here and there between intersections. (I don’t think this was true on 42nd street, where there were a few pointless-looking barricades just scattered here and there, and the march was pretty much wall-to-wall.)

So on 5th, if one got sufficiently tired of walking slowly in the gathering dusk, one could slip off of the street onto the sidewalk at a pause or break in the barricades, and walk along at a faster pace for a big (still carrying one’s sign, wearing one’s earmuffs, whooping, etc), and then slip back into the march a short-block later.

That was nice!

Somewhere in there, maybe 46th Street or so on the way up 5th Avenue, the police came in and held back the marchers a few feet ahead of me, and stretched blue tape across the street.  (Big black smiling cop sidestepped back and forth on the other side of the tape, making the point that while he couldn’t actually stop us if we insisted on continuing to walk, he would in a friendly way try to; or something.)

It turned out they were doing this because some people in cars wanted to cross the road!

Ha ha ha, can you imagine?

The blue tape let maybe a few dozen cards and trucks and buses go by, some of them taking pictures out the window, and we whooped at them. A marcher near me claimed that at least one was a taxi with at least one passenger in it, and we speculated how long they’d been sitting there trying to cross 5th, with the meter running. Silly autos!

After not very long at all really, they took the tape away again and we whooped and marched quickly up the several yards to where the rest of the march had advanced to in the interim.

And then at 54th Street there was a guy with a megaphone (video📹) thanking us for coming out and saying that this is what Democracy is all about, and also telling us that 5th Avenue was blocked off at 55th Street, and this was therefore the end of the march, and we were not going to get to Trump Tower tonight, so we should go away now, or if we really wanted to we could go up one more block and then go away.

He was wearing an EMS jacket and a hat with a logo, and there were some people with march volunteer vests by him.  When I stopped megaphoning I asked him who he was,  and he said he was just a regular guy with a megaphone, and I asked if he was EMS, and he said he was with some neighborhood ambulance (I think?) service, and just one of the volunteers tonight.

(I wouldn’t be surprised if NYPD hadn’t asked him, directly or indirectly, to be there doing that, so that they wouldn’t have to.)

Pretty much everybody wanted to continue, so we got up to 55th Street, where the stream was splitting east and west and people were grumbling somewhat and looking past the police barricades in the direction of the Tower.  The chant turned into a very rousing version of “Welcome to your first day, we won’t go away, welcome to your first day, we won’t go away” (more video📹).

However, we were nice, and didn’t make trouble for the police, and the march more or less ended there, at a row of march volunteers (directly in contact with the marchers) and a barricade, and a row of police (not so much directly in contact with the marchers), police cars, and another barricade, and so on.


Here is a symbolic picture of a single Guardian of Order, making sure that ordinary citizens cannot get too close to the seat of power of the person they are protesting:


(Of course said person was probably not around his NYC stronghold anyway, being busy off in Washington DC disgracing himself utterly.)

I went and stood by the outer barricade next to the rightmost volunteer for awhile, watching the people and taking pictures and chanting and whooping, vaguely speculating about how it would go if the crowd decided to go to Trump Tower after all, and helpfully helping open and close the opening in the barricade that the police were using to let authorized people in and out of the outer security layer.

Eventually I stopped doing that, and walked East a bit along 55th Street, looking at the amazing variety of signs that people had left leaning against the barricades and spread out on the street.  So much wit and passion and creativity! There is talk of someone making like a coffeetable book of photos of signs, proceeds to benefit Planned Parenthood or something; I hope that comes to be. Here are just a few of mine; more in the album linked above.

Soooo many!

I wandered back to 5th Avenue itself, and the tail of the march had arrived and left, and there was a row of shiny NYPC motorcycles slowly coming up.  The police started clearing people from the intersection, and I slipped over to the West side of it, to see what was up over there. They moved barricades around some, amid a bit confusion about exactly what they were doing and who ought to be moved where and stuff. (I asked one NYPD if we were supposed to be like going somewhere else instead, and he just smiled and shrugged.)

Eventually they moved everyone out of 5th Avenue and reopened that and cars started flowing again, to much whooping (video📹). Then they urged everyone on 42nd near 5th to get onto the sidewalks, and started putting up new barricades stuff. Eventually half a dozen of them walked along 42nd toward 6th, side by side, each holding a barricade at waist level, to sort of push back anyone still in the street. It was more an expression of intent rather than an actual pushing, though, since there weren’t very many people in the street anyway, and it would have been trivial to just get into the sidewalk as they went by and then step into the street again (at least one person did, to no obvious effect).

A smallish number of people were still standing on the corner, chanting away, including one rather manic young white guy with a buzzcut who was jumping up and down and pumping his fist in a worrying manner, and a person next to him in a Guy Fawkes mask (the only mask I recall seeing in the march). But neither of them proved to be obviously agents provocateurs or Black Bloc folks, at least not while I was there.

So we chanted “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist U.S.A.!” for awhile (video📹, with me doing just the “No Trump!” part because hoarse by that time), and they moved barricades more so that we could stand in a little area on the edge of the street and walking people could walk on the sidewalk.  42nd Street got fully reopened at some point in there.

I asked another NYPD officer if things were now back to about how they usually were, or if this was still post-march stuff.

“We’ll have to see,” he said, roughly, “it’s just Day One!”

“Oh,” I said, “that’s true, but hasn’t the sidewalk been blocked off and stuff near Trump Tower for awhile now?”

“Yeah,” he said, “but nothing like this,” nodding generally toward the still-chanting people.

So that was interesting.

Eventually I decided that was sort of over, so I went out of the barricaded area and walked around. Nearby was the only property damage I saw all night:


Not at all clear it happened during the March, though; them bus signs are always getting broken off by one thing and another.

Next I wandered over to 42nd and 6th or somewhere, and got a Ham and Cheese and Egg crepe and some water for dinner from a cart guy.

And that’s pretty much the end of the March story for this posting.

img_20170121_224658I texted the little daughter and we had some coffee and dessert, and eventually a sleepy me headed back home on ol’ Metro North.

It was a great time, and I’m glad that I went.

One march, even one day of marches enormous enough to really annoy Certain Thin-Skinned Narcissists, won’t solve our problems by any means (and boy do we have problems omg don’t get me started), but I am somewhat hopeful that it will give people a taste of activism, and a feeling of hope, and ideas about solidarity and involvement, and that as a result things will not be as bad as they would have been otherwise.

And for me personally, being in the City, being with literally hundreds of thousands of like-minded people in the City, expressing support for liberty, equality, justice, love, and all that sort of good thing, and expressing opposition to lies, oppression, sexism, racism, hatred, inequality, and like that, was a really, really good time.




Gin and Juice: Summary

Good that old Wikipedia versions never die.


The song begins with a sound effect of a human urinating, followed by an interlude in which an unknown male is speaking, denouncing one of his associates for either committing maternal-sodomy in the immediate vicinity or for having bad breath, it remains unclear which. The unknown male requests some bubblegum, presumably to remedy the situation.

We are then introduced to the narrator with the nom de plume of Snoop Dogg as he discusses the exigencies of his life; his hometown of Long Beach, California, is very dramatic. He finds the will to create his unique musical style amidst all this drama, and does so daily. He then entreats the listener (affectionately called a “g”) to enjoy his tale in said musical style.

Snoop Dogg’s tale starts at 2 am in his domicile, where a party has been taking place and is able to continue late into the night due to the temporary absence of his mother. Women are copulating in his living room, presumably in a lesbian fashion, and intend to do so until 6 am, when they will depart. Snoop Dogg and his associates decide to join the sapphic women. Ever-prepared, they pull condoms out of their pockets before turning off the lights and shutting the doors behind them.

After making it clear that his regard for the females does not involve love, Snoop Dogg and his associates decide that the use of one ounce of marijuana would be a fitting commemoration of the casual polyamorous scenario. Rather than go into details of what is taking place behind closed doors, he tells the listeners (affectionately called “motherfuckas”) to reminisce of revelry in general, preferably while bouncing.

The said revelry consists of the chorus line and the subject of the song title: cruising down the street, smoking marijuana, and sipping on gin and an unnamed juice. The unnamed juice is likely of citrus origin, though the properties of gin are agreeable to all fruit juices.

It is possible that the previous scene, and the upcoming scenes, are projected memories of the narrators told in the present tense. Mr. Dogg then attempts a palindrome about his constant preoccupation with pecuniary matters.

In another memory, Snoop Dogg has procured a bottle of Seagrams brand gin and is intent on consuming it himself, but his associates have worked up a thirst as well. They present their empty cups for Mr. Dogg to fill, but have not offered any payment for the alcohol. Snoop Dogg is angry at the prospect of sharing his alcoholic beverage without reasonable compensation, as these requests happen all too often. He acknowledges their requests, but reminds them that his needs come first.

Snoop Dogg quickly diffuses the situation by reminding the listener that he is very good at cultivating music that captivates his listeners. He wants to know, “Who listens to the words that I speak?” This is most likely a rhetorical question. We do not learn if he ever does share the Seagrams.

Snoop Dogg leaves the party with his beverage to the middle of the street, presumably because his house party has grown beyond the bounds of his yard. He meets a young lady named Sadie who had previously formed a romantic attachment with one of his associates. He flirts with the young lady, but does not expect physical contact because the weather has remained a sultry 80 degrees Fahrenheit. As she initiates physical contact with his testicles, the heat becomes too much. Snoop tells Sadie to refrain from palpating his scrotum and informs her she should not make further contact with that part of him. He says “at ease”, likely to calm down Sadie, but also in an attempt to relax all involved. Snoop Dogg then runs off to engage in an act of mobbing with his associates (affectionately called the “Dog Pound”) in order to cool off and feel a breeze. He urges all to do the same.

We return to the chorus narration, where Snoop Dogg continues to consume marijuana and gin and juice while cruising in a vehicle. He is still concerned about his financial situation, again stated palindromically.

The narrator then recalls a memory that happened later in the same day, presumably at the house party. His friend, Dr. Dre, pays Snoop Dogg a visit, presenting him with several bottles of Tanqueray brand gin and a very well-endowed joint of marijuana. The marijuana is of a strength colloquially described as lethal, which he cleverly alludes to through a reference to the bubonic plague. The combination of drugs proves too intoxicating for Snoop Dogg, and he is forced to imbibe less vivaciously, but he refuses to stop altogether. Snoop Dre then introduces Snoop Dogg to some women who he has brought from a neighboring city in Los Angeles. Snoop Dogg makes his intent to bed (or cot) the women clear, but warns them beforehand that he does not intend to make them climax nor remain near them after copulation has occurred because he does not love them. Women whom he does not love are referred to as “hoes”, the etymological origin of which is unclear, but is in no way related to the garden tool.

The song ends with a repetition of the chorus one more time, where some spontaneous words are uttered after the title verse (a slang word phonetically spelled BEE-OTCH). Mr Dogg’s mental preoccupation with fiscal matters is restated multiple times, likely in attempt to finally make a palindrome, but never succeeding.


Fifteen years!

Wow, you’d think something would have changed after a week away; flying cars, or aliens walking around Manhattan, or at least a new subway line or something, but NO, everything is pretty much just the same!


Extremely attentive and/or precognitive readers will suspect rightly that we were away for a week because we were in Maine; the first time that happened was in 1999, and this is 2014, so it’s been fifteen years!

And since that first Maine trip was when I started writing a weblog, and this is in some sense the same weblog as that, this is the fifteenth anniversary of the weblog!


Here is a picture of Maine:


Isn’t that gorgeous? Along with M’s sister’s family, and their father and stepmother, we rented a house on top of Dodge Mountain, overlooking Rockland and the bay and points East, with a lovely deck, and chairs to sit in, and tables to put your book and your wineglass on, and beds to sleep in, and all.

It was great.

I did a lot of reading, as usual. That book there is “Karma and Rebirth” by Christmas (sic) Humphries. I wrote it up for GoodReads (hope that link works for not-me people).

(I will resist the obvious temptation to produce lots of weblog content by pasting in all various book reviews I have written instead of just linking to them!)

I read that because I happened across it in some used book store (perhaps Hello Hello Books?), shortly after watching Hemant Mehta’s rather offputting “Can Atheists be Buddhists“, and it seemed like a nice synchronicity.

The Mehta piece is offputting for a few reasons:

  • His conclusion is basically “no”, and I’m sort of both of those things, so yeah.
  • The reason his conclusion is basically “no” is that, he says, although Buddhists don’t believe in a deity, they do believe some stuff (specifically Karma and Rebirth) that Isn’t Scientific, and therefore atheists won’t believe it.
  • This implies that for Mehta “atheist” doesn’t just mean “doesn’t believe in God” for some value of “God”, it means “only believes stuff that is Scientific”, and that seems like just sloppy thinking or sloppy word-usage or something,
  • His conclusion that Karma and Rebirth are Not Scientific seems very offhand and not particularly well thought out; as for that matter is his assumption that all Buddhists believe in either or both of them in any form.

Some day I will have to write a post on Buddhism and Scientificness and Karma and Rebirth and all, and why atheists can in fact be Buddhists, and vice-versa, at least when they are me. Not today, though. :)

Another book, that I’m sure I bought in Hello Hello Books (which is a great bookstore, by the way), and then I read and enjoyed very much, is Doris Grumbach’s “The Pleasure of Their Company”, which I also wrote up for GoodReads. It was good.

I do love lying about in Maine, feeling the wind and reading books and thinking about things.

Also I went out on a boat! And held a lobster!

Here is a picture from on the boat, with the notable deck hand Dana holding the lobster in question:

Dana with the lobster

and here is the lobster, with parts of my hand holding it:


and a little girl looking dubious in the background.

We did many other things in Maine! I took three of the four kids to the beach one day, but the sun was behind clouds and the sand was too wet and rocky and the waves too small and they got cold, so we didn’t stay very long.

Here are some rocks!


They do look coldish.

We went into Rockland a couple of times (although sadly we were not in town for this

Internet Cats

which I bet would have been noteworthy), and into Camden a couple of times (here is a classy black-and-white shot of some water in Camden:

Water in Camden

just because we are posting lots of pictures; more and/or different ones can as usual be found on the Insta-Gram).

Reading back through some of the various Maine and post-Maine postings in the weblog over the years, I see lots of variety in terms of thoughtfulness, randomness, introspection, and so on. I did feel introspective, in a good way, and renewed, in a good way, by it all this year, but in writing about it I’m mostly just writing random things, I think. :)

Maybe largely because I didn’t feel like writing about it at all while I was there (too busy doing it?), and now am writing about it retrospectively, having been home for a couple of days and back to work one day, so somewhat back in the quotidian mindset. Or something?

Here is another picture :) this one of ol’ Red’s Eats (where we didn’t eat this year) as randomly enhanced in its usual drive-by way by Google Plus:

Red's Eats

Kinda neat, I thought.

What else? I read some other books, acquired some other books, sat zazen a bit, had some thoughts, drank some wine, ate some lobster and some blueberry pie, enjoyed some sun and wind.

And I’m not unhappy to be home. :)

About all one could ask for, really!


Eventual thread convergence

Speaking of the really bad science in teevee shows like Numb3rs, and speaking a long time ago about that really annoying book that Stephen Wolfram wrote, we are extremely amused to read that:

Wolfram Research served as the mathematical consultant for the CBS television series Numb3rs, a show about the mathematical aspects of crime-solving.


No further comment required.


Warm and Cold Places

Ooh, it’s snowing again!

So the other day (when was that?) when it was very cold, I decided to see a little more of the city, and I went up the stairs and walked on the surface (surface!) from Grand Central Station to Times Square (the route of the S train, basically).

And it was very cold!

In fact I had intended to walk all the way to the Port Authority Bus Terminal (on 8th Avenue, where one picks up the ACE line), but it was so cold that by the time I came across a subway entrance down into Time Square Station I plunged down eagerly.

Also I had forgotten my gloves, but was was okay because I just kept my hands in my coat pockets. Except when I had to take them out to use my phone as a scanner in order to interact with portals and such.

Because I am playing Ingress on my new Smart-o-Phone!

Ingress is a fun ARG (Augmented Reality Game) sort of game that makes you actually move about in the real world and be near certain locations and stuff when you push buttons on your phone, in order to deal with the XM Satellite Radio signals (or something) that are leaking into the world and something something portals and mind-control fields and stuff and also lots of videos that I have not watched.

Your phone, in the game, uses a network of orbital satellites, originally launched for the military, that enables it to tell where you are in the real world to within, in good conditions, like a few feet.

Oh wait, that part is in real life.


So that is being cold and playing Ingress!

There are lots of other things I have been wanting to weblogify about, but I don’t necessarily remember them all, but I will not let that stop me.

Of course it would help if I could remember what I have already weblogified about, but that is easily done! One moment…

Ha, I see I wanted to weblogify about Ingress, and I have now done that. A little at least. Maybe I should mention that as a neophile I am in the Enlightened faction rather than the Resistance (of course we should cooperate with whatever force is sending mysterious energy into the world to boost mankind into the next phase of evolution; what could possibly go wrong?) (also it reminds me of SMAC, which is nostalgic), and I am currently level (um) five of eight (where each level requires twice as many Whatever Points to achieve than the one before, like old-fashioned Dungeons and Dragons, so eight is wayyyyy off).

Oh, and adventures! Yes yes, that is really the main thing I wanted to write about, because woot.

The other day (longer ago than the day that I did the walking on the surface thing, I think), there was this snowstorm during the day while I was at work, and also it was very cold, and it took me about two hours to make the usually-twenty-minutes trip from The Station to home.

This was because, while not all that deep, the snow was beautiful and fine and powdery and very cold, so driving on it was sort of like driving on lots of little hills and drifts made of teeny tiny ballbearings, which is a thing that ordinary two-wheel-drive cars are not all that good at.

(Here is an Instragram of the faithful car waiting for me in the parking lot, with tiny ballbearings all over it.)

At first it was pretty much fine, driving along the local highway, as long as I did not try to go too fast, and was careful to restrain the car’s natural desire to slide gradually off of the road and into the comfy ditch at the edge.

Then I had to turn off of the local highway onto the even more local highway, and as soon as I turned the wheel slightly the car got very enthusiastic about the whole turning thing, and I left the road several yards before the actual exit ramp, and excitingly went around the wrong side of the Exit sign and up a little bank and down the other side, trying to work the controls so that the car would not stop there in a disrecommended place, and was successful enough that the car and I slid right back onto the exit ramp, about halfway along, and fortunately no one was coming because we continued (if I am remembering right) to slide right through the red light and onto the even more local highway which was where we were trying to be.

So that worked out. :)

Then the even more local highway was fine until I got about even with The Mall, from which point on the road I could tell that the Big Hill leading up toward home was all covered with vehicles with flashing lights and things, so I turned (carefully) into the parking lot of The Mall since there wasn’t anything else obvious to do, and parked, and SMS’d M about how there would be a delay in getting home.

Also I went into the bank’s ATM place to get money out since i was short on cash anyway, and to recharge my phone which was short on electricity and they have a plug there.

(Here is an Instagram taken from inside the bank’s ATM place.)

I clomped about out in the snow a bit (there were very very few other cars or people around; I don’t know what all those other people on the train and parked in the station parking lot ended up doing; very mysterious), and walked over to the bottom of the Big Hill and found out from the fireperson there that the Hill was not closed due to the tiny ballbearings on the road, but rather due to a fire that had happened on a road just off the even more local highway, on the hill, and it would probably be awhile before it was open again.

And from my prior experience, trying to get up the hill in the car over the tiny ballbearings would probably not have gone well even with no emergency vehicles or fires or blinking lights involved.

So I got back in the car again and tried to go around the other way, but found I could not go up even the relatively small rise in the street leading back around the other way, so I stopped at a little (and surprisingly open) convenience store opposite that street, and bought hot coffee, and a muffin, and some of those irresistible soft chocolate chip cookies that come in boxes. And a banana.

Then since I had seen a plow-looking thing go by and there was a good run for getting up to speed by starting from the convenience store parking lot, I tried the street again, and got over the rise, and slid successfully down the other side and onto yet another local highway, and around various corners and through lights and things to within site of The Other Big Hill that was the last thing in the way of getting home.

The whole going-the-other-way thing had been problematic mostly because of this Other Big Hill, which is quite steep for trying to get up in the prevailing ballbearing conditions, but does have a nice long run before it for getting up to speed, so I did the obvious thing and sort of slid up the hill at a comparatively dizzying rate, and skewed around onto Our Street which is a bit before the top of the hill, and slid down Our Street and fishtailed slightly into the driveway and was home.


And we had cookies (and a banana) to go with the delicious chili (or possibly chilli or chile) that M had waiting for me. (Here is an Instragram of that; yum!)

So that is those adventures. I do love the winter!

(Oh, and if you are in the neighborhood you should go to the Steampunk Coffeehouse! Because it is good!)


So much…

So very, very much.

All my walking muscles ache in gratifying ways.

I feel like whole sections of my mind are waking up after long, long naps. Or maybe opening up for the first time.

I like the subway more every time I take it. When you see the same thing for the second, third, fourth time, you see more deeply into it. And seeing more deeply into things is good.

The subway, that’s a good segue into some sort of coherence for this posting. :)

NYCMy morning schedule is now: alarm goes off around 0700, I leave the house around 0720, deal with the parking machines around 0736, catch the 0740 very-express, or the 0745 or 0749 also-expresses, from Croton-Harmon to Grand Central, walk to the Shuttle Passage and take the S to Times Square (around 0830), walk (nice long aerobic walk) through the underground passageways from 42nd Street Times Square (1237NQS) to 42nd Street Port Authority (ACE), take the 8th Avenue subway down to 14th Street (the express stops at Penn Station on the way, the local stops at Penn Station and at 23rd Street), go up the stairs into the old Port Authority building, wave my badge at a reader-thing, go up the elevator to the 5th floor, get breakfast, and there I am, at 0900 or a bit before.


And during all of that, so many people, faces, eyes, briefcases, shoes, scarves and dresses, ties, suits, and the subway musicians, steel drums, cellos, saxes, opera singers with tipjars, the tables of patient Jehovah’s Witnesses giving out their little books in eight languages, the loud man declaiming how urgent it is to come to Jesus, five-by-seven shiny paper rectangles left on subway seats about Jesus or an upcoming performance of Shakespeare, the song of rails, trains pushing air down the dark tunnels, the clack of heels, voices chanting over the speakers, “please keep clear of the closing doors”, the paper “Planned Service Changes” sign where someone has supplemented the tiny black type with a big crayon arrow pointing to the left and labeled “TO QUEENS” and someone else has written underneath it “thanks”.

Ehem, I was going to be coherent. But there is so much!

As previously noted I work at Google now.

It is extremely awesome.

The extent to which I can and can’t go into detail about things is interesting in itself. IBM’s big emphasis is on getting confidential information only to those who need it, inside or outside the company. Lots of information isn’t confidential, so everyone, inside and out, is free to have it, and as an internal person if I wanted to get for instance the source code to some random other project’s product, it would have been difficult just to figure out where it was and who to ask for access, let alone actually getting approval.

Google is much more Hard Shell and Creamy Center that way; anything that hasn’t been officially published is to be kept inside, but Googlers can get to an amazing amount of stuff. Just how amazing that amount of stuff is, and what it contains, I’m not sure if I can tell you.

I can reveal that Google has more than seven machines, located in more than three datacenters that are all over the place. I cannot speculate on rumors that we have a major datacenter in the back room of every Starbucks, or that we have a radical new way of cooling datacenters using Fair Trade coffee beans.

swagFor my own part, I can definitely reveal that I’m drinking a lot less coffee than I did a few weeks ago; apparently drinking from firehoses is a good substitute, in terms of staying awake.

I can also reveal that whereas it used to take me forty-five minutes to an hour to get out of the house (or, to be brutally honest, even to get all the way out of bed) on a weekday morning, it now takes twenty at the most.

Also, there really are secret rooms behind bookcases in the library, and a slide (I went down it yesterday; twice). And of course scooters (which I will have to try some day when I am feeling brave and well-balanced).

And additionally, swag! :)

I have switched from my snazzy Fossil messenger bag (a gift from M) which is too nice for daily subway abuse, to the pictured Google backpack, which is tougher, has less sentimental value, has just as many tons of pockets (perhaps a little harder to reach into ad hoc), and distributes the weight of an iPad and macbook and assorted stuffs more symmetrically for the back. I am wearing the pictured Google tee shirt even now :) and the propeller hat is still hanging there on the corner of one of my monitors.

“One of my monitors” hee hee.

I have been like a kid on Christmas all week. Giddiness!

So, summary: work is amazing, Google is awesome, I am energized as I haven’t been in probably years. And finally I have found time to write in my weblog about it!

More posts as the situation develops… :)


Change of address

This has been up on the Facebook for a bit, but it fits nicely into the narrative here, so:

We've been eating grass!

Okay, I really ought to announce it myself, rather than just hijacking the little daughter’s status on the subject. :) As of Oct 21st, I will be retiring from IBM after 33 good years, and starting at Google in Chelsea for the next 33. Yep, it’s quite a commute, and I’m looking forward to it anyway. The place is packed with former Watsonites, and I expect it to be a Good Time. Also, they provide Lego!

I expect there will be more postings on this general subject going foward :) but right now here are a couple of exclusive pictures (well, on the Instagram, but not the Facebook) which are related.

The cake is not a lie!

Sorry about that!

Oops! Sorry about that, stockholders…

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Empirical Evidence for the Axiom of Choice!

Banach-Tarski Duck

(original photo)