The title for this could really just be “Heavy Sigh” but I’m too committed to the bit and anyway if I have to suffer you assholes the rest of my natural life you can suck it

We’re up to three indictments now, which is good even though JFC the DOJ took their sweet time with this last one, didn’t they? At least this time you don’t get the sense the judges in DC are actively working for the defense. “Mister” Trump, indeed.

But but but…

In one sense it doesn’t matter, because whatever happens in the courtroom he’s not going to stop running for president. But even that doesn’t get to the core of the problem. Every cycle there are all kinds of people running for president we never hear about, because they don’t have a prayer in hell of winning. Ideally, that would be true of DJT as well. It’s not, thanks to the hordes of fash-curious we have running around the country, family included. (Those would be the titular assholes of this post, if you were wondering.)

So, great — we’re going to have to live through the spectacle of a man who should be wearing a jumpsuit the same shade of Oompa Loompa as his bronzer being treated like a viable choice to occupy the White House again. Maybe I’m wrong on this, and we’re months away from official primaries & caucuses taking place, but as things stand it’s hard to see how he doesn’t start racking up wins, and then getting a terrifying number of votes come November 2024. Because what you do when someone attempts a coup and fails is…give them another shot at it?


Books Film

In which I write a longish list of things I’ve read or watched recently, only to make a tiny point

Except for the last one, there’s no particular order to these. The movies/TV shows are all since mid-June, the books & comics go back at least into May, maybe as far as April:

Taking those in order we have protagonists who are: trans/gay (more so in the movie than the comic), female, female, female, female, female, female, female, female, female, female, female, and…female. I would have to go back for a proper analysis to be sure, but I suspect many (most?) of them wouldn’t pass a male version of the Bechdel Test.

Which is maybe why early in Rage is a Wolf after yet another douchey male character showed up, a little voice in my head sighed, “I need to read something with some proper dudes in it.” This was quickly followed by a dawning realization. “Oohhh…is this what it’s like for women and minoritized groups who hardly ever see themselves properly represented?”

Yes, I’m well aware this is a dilemma of my own making. It’s not like there’s a shortage of male-centric fiction out there. I just happen to have stumbled into a run of works that are less so, and had that weird little moment of clarity that seemed worth noting.


I’ve had captchas with more opportunity for input than the AI feedback form they gave me

Work had one of those “lunch & learn” type things recently on ChatGPT, which I skipped because 1) I’ve been exposed to enough hype on AI/LLM/ML whatever you want to call it, and 2) I’m not a religious man, but lunch downtime is sacred. A couple days later they followed up the lunch session with an email linking to the video of it that more or less read, “Did you see it? Did you see it?” And that email was quickly followed by yet another message with a survey asking for input/interest in our unit using ChatGPT in some way.


So like a tired parent with a hyperactive child obsessed with the latest craze, I put aside what I was doing to engage. The video was fine — an overview of what the various acronyms mean, how the technology works, and a couple demonstrations. The latter consisted of asking ChatGPT to generate Python code for a quicksort algorithm, then asking it to do the same in Rust. They then asked for an explanation of the same in the voice of Jean-Paul Sartre, Ayn Rand, and Kanye West. It did manage to do all of this fine. There was some discussion about how these LLM tools have a tendency to just make things up, as well as copyright issues, but it was only a 30 minute session so it didn’t get too deep.

On to the survey form, which was basically two yes/no questions and a pair of text fields that looked like they would accept maybe 50-100 characters. That may have been enough to write, “ChatGPT and generative AI are bullshit and I want no part of it,” (63 characters) but swearing is kinda frowned upon at work, so I just went on with my day.

But it’s possible I’ve been stewing over it ever since, because ChatGPT and generative AI are bullshit, I want no part of either, and yet they keep getting shoved in my face like the greatest thing since the invention of undo. I suppose I should pause for a moment to acknowledge that there are reasonable uses for machine learning, but I would argue they are limited and best leveraged under the hood. For example, Pixelmator Pro has image tools based on machine learning that are genuinely useful. They are also very different from how ChatGPT and its ilk are sold.

Let me blow through some basic things first. Yes, tools like ChatGPT can spit out code for self-contained, well-defined problems like the above. I would argue that this ability is no more remarkable than being able to punch “quicksort algorithm python” in a search engine, which will give you multiple results with working code and/or explanations. A web search can’t give you the results in the style of, let’s say, Dr. Seuss, but that’s just a parlor trick and not very practical anyway. It can also give you answers to non-technical questions. Many of these answers might even be right! Either way, you can get paragraphs of authoritative-looking text out of it. Tools like Stable Diffusion can even generate images that look vaguely like what you’re asking for as long as “surreal” is part of the mandate. You would be a fool to rely on it for professional work, though (<cough> Secret Invasion)


Let’s take a recent example of something I had to do for work. One of the apps I’m responsible for has a feature that allows users to send a bulk email to pre-defined sets of recipients. There’s a mail merge function as well, so these messages can be customized. This basic system has been in place for roughly a decade now. This summer, I was tasked with altering this to allow a user to send a message to a group of users, and this message was to contain a hyperlink with a draft email to a different set of recipients. This called for a mail merge within a mail merge, complicated by the fact that one of these had to generate encoded content. The source code for this app is not publicly available, and the frameworks it relies on are not widely used, where they’re not completely custom. This is not a problem ChatGPT is going to be able to help with, any more than I can hit Google for a solution.

Let’s also consider the tendency for tools like ChatGPT to just make things up. I would argue this is not just one of the tool’s greatest weaknesses, but also their greatest danger. If you’re not familiar with the lawyer who used ChatGPT as a research tool to his regret, you should read up on it. In the lunch session, someone did bring this up, and they suggested you should basically ask the tool, “are you sure?” But can you trust that answer any more than the first? The problem is, ChatGPT will sound absolutely confident in its responses, whether there is any truth to them or not. And you can’t really ask for citations without having to then follow up to verify those are real, too. Here again, I would argue you’re better off with a more traditional tool like Google that directs you to source materials instead of synthesizing content and spitting it out context-free.

What really gets me about all this isn’t just that the tools are more limited than the hype would have you think, and that they can be dangerous if you’re not careful. For the limited results we get from them, neither the infrastructure required to make them work nor the changes they would in turn demand from users are sustainable. Remember, in order for something like ChatGPT to work, it not only has to have vacuumed up massive amounts of content, it has to have humans annotating the data in order for the computer to do anything intelligent with it. Further, this data intake and annotation has to be ongoing, because spoiler alert, the world is a dynamic place. But surprise, annotation doesn’t pay well. So what’s already happening? People are using AI to help train AI. But if AI can’t be trusted to get things right…it’s like trying to build a skyscraper by taking girders from the basement to support the 20th floor.

And on the other end, in order to use ChatGPT well, you have to be skilled in how to prompt it, to the extent there are university courses on prompt engineering.

And I’m not even getting into copyright or the ethics/legality of essentially hoovering up the entire Internet without any compensation or acknowledgement, let alonefair compensation to the original creators. Last I heard, OpenAI won’t even disclose where its data set comes from.

So yeah, I don’t think these tools are going to stick around in any kind of generalized form, and I’ll be happy when they go back to being the province of specialized tools and research. Hopefully they’re already on their way. In the meantime, I’ll just stick to what I’m doing, thanks.

Film Politics

Nick Fury and the black-robed dinguses

There’s a scene in episode 2 of “Secret Invasion” where Nick Fury and Talos are on a train somewhere in eastern Europe, and Nick tells Talos about taking the train from Alabama to Detroit when he was a kid. He does this primarily to get Talos to play a game of “Tell Me Something I Don’t Know” (exposition!), but along the way he mentions having to ride in the “Colored Car,” and how they had to bring their own food because they weren’t allowed into the dining car.

I had one of those record skipping moments in my head. Wait, how old is Nick Fury supposed to be? Looks like the MCU version was born in 1950 (for comparison, Samuel L. Jackson was born in 1948). Okay, so next check a Civil Rights timeline. The Brown v. Board of Education decision was 1954, followed by lots of protests and attempts to maintain segregation in schools. Rosa Parks is 1955. Sit-ins are late 50s into the 60s. Riots in 1961 at UGA over the first two Black students to be admitted (and they get suspended). Alabama Gov. George Wallace calls for “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” in 1963, same year as MLK’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” The Civil Rights Act came in 1964.

Nick Fury would have been a teenager at this point. So…yeah, he could absolutely have had to ride a segregated train.

I’m sure none of this would have been a surprise to a Black person watching the show, but I guess I needed a reminder that the days of hard-core segregation aren’t that far in the past.

So imagine my surprise (not really, the writing was on the wall) when the Supreme Court ruled against affirmative action in college admissions.

Sidebar: Justice Sotomayor’s dissent had this bit, which generated a genuine, “Oh shit” reaction from yours truly:

JUSTICE THOMAS, for his part, offers a multitude of arguments for why race-conscious college admissions policies supposedly “burden” racial minorities. Ante, at 39. None of them has any merit.

He first renews his argument that the use of race in holistic admissions leads to the “inevitable” “underperformance” by Black and Latino students at elite universities “because they are less academically prepared than the white and Asian students with whom they must compete.” Fisher I, 570 U. S., at 332 (concurring opinion). JUSTICE THOMAS speaks only for himself.

I don’t know how to properly cite Supreme Court rulings, but you can find that on page 195 of the PDF linked above. It’s page 56 of her dissent.

Anyway, Thomas aside I can kind of get where the majority justices in that opinion are coming from. They’re white people with at least the baseline of privilege that implies. No one in their family history ever had to worry about being prohibited from attending school because of their race. I haven’t dug into their personal histories, but I expect they have more than just that baseline, thus their oblivious attitude. However, the notion that this country has gone from centuries of institutionalized, and often violent racism, to a state where we can say, “Welp, no more racism here, we good?” within the span of one man’s lifetime, and any long-term harm has been wiped clean is absurd. They should be smart enough to recognize that.

Here’s what I know. I’ve attended and/or been employed at five different universities across as many states. All of them have had affirmative action programs, and none have had, let’s say, a shortage of white people. I’ve had applications rejected from four other institutions I can remember (Caltech, Carlton College, UC Berkeley, and The University of Michigan), all due to my own mediocrity, thankyouverymuch. My parents and at least one grandparent went to college, so there’s a chance1 I could have gotten a leg up thanks to legacy admissions, though I didn’t apply to any of them. At any rate, I did just fine at the institutions I did attend. I hope there were Black people admitted to all the schools that rejected me, and God speed to them. I had experiences as an undergraduate I absolutely would not have had without living and studying with people of other races and cultures, however they came to be there.

Anyway, I mostly wanted to take a moment to acknowledge that history runs long, and it’s easy to forget how any given person may have been affected by conditions that you may not have personally experienced or remember. The MCU’s Nick Fury went from high school into the US Army, and then to the CIA, but I don’t think we know why. It’s certainly possible the army was his only option, for financial reasons or because…Alabama. As he put it in a different context, “Men who look like us don’t get promoted because of who our daddies know. Every ounce of power we wrestle from the vice grip of the mediocre Alexander Pierces who run this world was earned in blood.”

  1. A small one. Of the three institutions I checked, one very explicitly does NOT factor in legacy, one seems to, and the last I can’t find any information on.

No special reason for this, why do you ask?

Courtesy Bart Simpson Chalkboard Generator.


Happiness is sitting in the three-season room during a summer rain

Woke up this morning, grabbed my phone to see what the world had been up in my absence, and the first thing I saw was this:


A little scrolling and pop over to a news app and I get it — things are getting messy in Russia. Oi.

Moving on.

The thing with the three-season room is that as nice as it is to sit out here, there is always always always the sound of Internal Combustion Engine vs Nature. Lawnmowers, leaf blowers, chainsaws, weed whackers, and I’m pretty sure some guys just strap engines to their backs and wander around the neighborhood to be obnoxious. But during a rainstorm? The only sound is the rain, the birds, and the occasional sound of a car going by. Bliss.

I am having the hardest time deciding what sticker to put on my new laptop so that I can distinguish it at a glance from my work laptop. Yes, I know, first-world problems.

Did I mention up top that this is going to be another random thoughts post? No? Well, guess what.

Turns out tuning the 12-string isn’t as bad as I thought it might be, though it does require a delicate touch with the plectrum. I’m getting better playing it, but do still feel like a refugee from the hot dog finger universe. Dear God it sounds glorious when I get it right, though.

Count me among those unhappy at Marvel’s (or whoever’s) decision to use AI-generated art for the opening titles of “Secret Invasion.” I’ll be skipping those to get straight to the human-generated work, thankyouverymuch.

Anyway, snack time!


New laptop day means making sure everything works so here have a post about nothing

Weird day today…we’re getting some electrical work done, which is why Short Bus is in the driveway getting some Vitamin D. Otherwise I’ve been parked by the window like a bored housecoat just to be sure I didn’t miss the FedEx delivery.

Also, WOW these migrations are so much easier than they used to be…


A perfect Sunday with…me!

This post concept is shamelessly stolen from Cavan Scott. As he puts it, “Every week, one of my pals reveals how they’d fill their perfect Sunday, sharing their favourite comfort reads, movies, food… anything that would make their weekend great.” I am not one of Cavan’s pals, but I’m going to assume he won’t mind this little bit of thievery.

These normally start with a brief introduction, but we’ll skip that part except to note I am a “multi-hyphenate dilettante,” as I’ve taken to labeling myself in social media. With that out of the way, let’s get to it…

My perfect Sunday…brunch

I’ve never been a brunch person, but I do like a Sunday breakfast that breaks from my usual rut of cereal and juice. This goes back to college, when the cafeteria opened late and only served one meal a day. I would show up early, grab a St. Louis Post-Dispatch from the pile (they had the best comic section) and have a meal that ideally consisted of scrambled eggs, hash browns (hopefully crispy, but that was a crapshoot), biscuits & gravy, and bacon or sausage, with orange juice to drink. During our time in Athens, GA the newspaper went away, and I switched to eggs over easy. Since we moved up north we’ve gotten out of the habit of going out for breakfast, but my order would stay the same.

My perfect Sunday…read

I don’t have a specific Sunday genre or title, and I very rarely reread books, so this would be whatever book I happen to be in the middle of. If I can finish a book out in the three-season room without too much lawnmower noise…chef’s kiss. The two most recent books I finished out there were Dog On It, by Spencer Quinn (detective story from a dog’s POV), and Gentle Writing Advice: How to be a Writer Without Destroying Yourself, by Chuck Wendig.

My perfect Sunday…comic

We tend to go the TPB route with comics, which means there are usually months if not years between releases. I’ll inevitably forget details about story and character between volumes, but tend not to worry about that too much. But when the last volume comes out, I will absolutely park myself in a chair with a pile of books and re-read the whole series in as close to a single sitting as I can. A series as long as Fables will take multiple days to catch up on, but shorter ones like Sex Criminals or Paper Girls I can do. The trick is waiting until Sunday to dig in.

My perfect Sunday…movie

I do like a Sunday afternoon movie, and the criteria is different from what we would choose for an evening watch. For example, the latest blockbuster would be an evening film. A movie we know is going to have a lot of night scenes or is otherwise dimly lit, also an evening movie…though that’s just for practical reasons. A perfect Sunday movie would be something that’s been out a while, and ideally something I either didn’t know about or was only dimly aware of that turns out to be a pleasant surprise. Three come to mind — the “Freaky Friday” with Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan, “Niagara” with Marilyn Monroe, and “Pork Pie.”

My perfect Sunday…TV binge

If I’m going to binge TV, it has to be a half hour show. Even then, I’m not likely to watch more than three or four episodes before I want to move on to something else. The content doesn’t hugely matter, though it’s likely to be something light like “Travel Man” with Richard Ayoade. I’ve also been known to rewatch “Clone Wars” story arcs, and I’m sorely tempted to do that with “Rebels” before “Ahsoka” comes out.

My perfect Sunday…podcast

I’m not huge into podcasts, which is maybe weird for a middle-aged white dude. I do subscribe to a few, but they mostly sit unlistened to in my podcast app until we’re taking a road trip…and then they still don’t get played because Chandra’s already heard them or I’d rather play music. When I do get around to them, the two I listen to most are Scriptnotes and In Our Time.

My perfect Sunday…album

Joni Mitchell’s live performance of “You Turn Me On I’m a Radio” from “Miles of Aisles” has been a persistent earworm since I first started thinking about this, which I assume is its way of saying, “Pick me! Pick me!” Aside from Joni, I might pick a jazz record. I recently discovered Miles Davis’s “In a Silent Way,” which is a good companion for reading or writing to, and I’ll probably cue it up next today.

My perfect Sunday…treat

Ice cream, duh. There’s a new place called Nonno’s Ice Cream Shoppe just a (safe!) ten minute bike ride from home, and I expect that’s going to be a regular thing during the summer months. We’ve had a Newport Creamery near us for years, but there’s no place to sit so you end up standing around in the parking lot watching cars go by. Nonno’s is locally-owned, and right on the edge of a park, so you can get your cone and walk across the street to eat it on a park bench.

…and that’s it! Buy my books! Uh…once I’ve published something! Read Conviction, you’ll like it (probably maybe)! Enjoy your Sunday!


Yet Another Grab Bag of Stuff On My Mind I Feel Compelled to Share Because the World Doesn’t Have Enough Hot Takes

I never really thought Donald Trump would ever be indicted for anything, so the last couple months have been a pleasant surprise. Baby steps. Now if the GOP would just get off their “laws for thee, not for me” kick.

Speaking of orange shit no one wants, having to deal with air quality issues is new and unwelcome. We haven’t had the radical change in coloration that New York has suffered from, but the numbers haven’t been great. I almost wish we did have that apocalyptic tint to the sky, because just looking (and smelling) around, you wouldn’t know anything was amiss even though the AQI numbers look alarming. I just hope we don’t get this in the heat of summer, when we’re going to desperately want to open windows.

Four shows we’ve been watching wrapped recently — “Succession,” “Barry,” “Ted Lasso,” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” I can’t remember a time when so many series ended nearly simultaneously. The first three had solid endings, though to my mind only “Barry” had any real surprises. As for “Mrs. Maisel”…we stopped watching that two episodes into the final season.


“Succession” ended the only way it could without betraying the show. The fun of watching it was always seeing those godawful miserable people doing miserable things to each other. Like “Ted Lasso,” it told its story in a straightforward linear fashion. I wouldn’t have been able to peg where “Ted Lasso” was going from the first season, though having a big win at the end is par for the course in that kind of show, and it was pretty clear at the start of season three that Ted was ready to go back home. “Barry,” on the other hand, elicited joyous “what the hell?!” moments all the way to the end, with the biggest one being that time jump where suddenly he’s…married (or something)? In Nebraska? With…a kid?

Which brings me to “Mrs. Maisel.” First episode of the last season, we’re in the early 80’s looking at a character we’ve never seen before. It turns out to be Midge’s daughter, talking about her mother, and they don’t seem to have a great relationship. Midge’s kids have barely been a presence in the last four seasons though, so how are we supposed to care? At the same time they indicated Midge’s career has been successful, effectively spoiling what I always thought was the central question of the series. Then they go back to the 60s, blah blah. Episode two, they jump forward again, via a late-career interview on “60 Minutes.” We get clips of her performances, and hints that some of her relationships have gone sour, more spoilers. Then they go back to the 60s again. We watched the rest of that episode, and bailed.

Here’s where I think they screwed up – if you’re going to have a flash-forward in a story, you have to leave the viewer/reader thinking, “Wait, WHAT? How did that happen?” In “Mrs. Maisel,” these flash-forwards didn’t hold much surprise. It’s the kind of show where you more or less expect her to be successful, and four seasons in we know she has a selfish/difficult streak, so tortured relationships with family & friends are hardly a surprise. These flash-forwards felt more like an epilogue printed out of place. They both spoiled the main story, and didn’t contribute any new questions to be answered.


Oh! And “The Muppets Mayhem”! So much fun.

Apple’s new Vision Pro does look spiffy, but I can’t see ponying up for one just yet. Not because they’re pricey, but because I find it hard to envision (sorry) a use case for them that can’t be adequately met with devices we already own. Still, I wouldn’t turn down an opportunity to give them a test drive…

Fast cars go fast.

It took wa-ayyy longer than it should have, but I think I finally get the whole compressor pedal thing. Now I just need to swap the envelope filter back into the chain…

Anyway, time to get back to the book I’ve been reading…


Who is the Mandalorian? And other random garbage on my mind lately

I don’t know what annoys me more, the unending hot takes about Star Wars, or that we’re going to be spending the next decade watching Disney try to retcon Episode IX into some semblance of coherence.

So it turns out this here website is one of the millions that have been used to create the textual slurry of ChatGPT et al. Did they ask my permission? No. Would I have given it? No. Is there anything I can do about it? Not until someone with deeper pockets launches a class action lawsuit. Even then, I’ll get…what, the next ten Bing searches free? I’ve never had any expectation of getting paid for this site, but it kind of pisses me off that billion dollar corporations are taking my writing to fatten their own coffers. Yes, they do this with search engines, but at least that’s driving traffic to the originators.

That last season of The Mandalorian was a bit of a shaggy dog story, eh?

I’m told people who are disappointed in the Dominion vs Fox News outcome were not being realistic. If so, count me among them. I always knew Fox would get away with nothing more than a financial slap on the wrist, but had hoped the trial might at least go on a little longer. And don’t come at me with “787 million is a lot of money.” You know that’s going to be structured in a way they’ll barely feel the hit. The NY Times has a headline that reads “Everybody Knows What Fox News Is Now,” but…really? Do they? Everybody knows who already knew. Anyone who didn’t still doesn’t.

The Mandalorian is Din Djarin. The Mandalorian is Bo-Katan Kryze. The Mandalorian is Din Grogu. Whoops, spoilers.

It was super weird watching the Starship rocket explode while everyone kept cheering like it was the climax firework of the Fourth of July. I get that it was a test flight that they learned a lot from, but it’s hard-wired into me that rockets going boom = bad day.

Make Something Wonderful: Steve Jobs in his own words is very well done. I’ve only spent a little time there so far, but will be digging into it more deeply.

This is the way.