Monday 26 June 2023

How can this be?

Harriet Wheeler

I've just read that today is Harriet Wheeler's birthday.

Her 60th birthday.

How can this be?

Sigh. Tip the author

Thursday 22 June 2023

I've got these slings, I've got these arrows

There's a moment, about two thirds of the way through Bending Hectic, a new(ish) offering from Radiohead-diversion The Smile, where an instrumental break sounds like it ought to be soundtracking 2001: A Space Odyssey. The moment where Dave takes the Discovery's pod through the monolith in Jovian orbit, perhaps.

However, literally no-one wants to hear me bang on about 2001 for the eight hundredth time, not even me, so let's keep it simple and just say here's a new song from The Smile. I especially like the tuning of a guitar as a motif, and the lyrics are right up my current strasse.

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Thursday 15 June 2023

Last one on AI for a while

I've written a few posts on AI lately. They have proved surprisingly popular, more so than my usual guff about some old song or other that I like. Although when I say popular, what I mean is they've had a lot of traffic and comments. I'm not trying to suggest the coming omnipotence of AI is popular, because it is far from that amongst my modest readership. But indulge me one more time. I read about a very basic limitation of one AI engine, and so had to try it out for myself. How's your counting, because ChatGPT's isn't always very good...

Oh dear. The correct answer is four, as any fule kno. So what's gone wrong? If I ask how many "z" are in "zzzzzz" it correctly answers six, so it's probably not to do with repeated letters. Maybe for words that it doesn't immediately recognise (and there are many variant spellings of pizzazz) it looks to the dictionary definition and counts from that? Or from the pronunciation pɪzæz?

Maybe I could teach ChatGPT to count...

Which, to my programmer's mind, suggests it is probably missing the last "z". Think for loops versus while loops, maybe. Either way, seems I'm still asking the question wrong. Let's try again. If I was programming this task, let's say in JavaScript, it's a doddle to iterate through a string and count how many times a certain letter appears. Look, I did it here if you want to learn some basic code - as you can see, it correctly returns 4. But what does ChatGPT make of it?

Which is really, really disappointing. For whilst it correctly understands and describes the purpose of the function, rather than run through the code it shortcuts straight to what it thinks it already knows...

Tip the authorThis is a very human response though - to have a preconception of what is right and assume it to be true, rather than retest one's understanding. Confirmation bias, in other words, and we all do it at times. I hope, for our sake, that ChatGPT is not exhibiting egocentric bias... Whatever, it seems that the real skill in these early days of AI is asking the question correctly. And then, just maybe, being sceptical about the answer.

Post script

ChatGPT, backed by Microsoft, struggles, as per the above. Bard, developed by Google, gets it right first time, as below. Not only that, it also offers a snippet of code to prove its answer, inadvertantly demonstrating that my programming skills will soon be obsolete too...

Monday 12 June 2023


I don't know if it's to do with getting older, or whether I'm just exhausted, or maybe I should go to bed earlier. Maybe there is something medically wrong with me, who knows (although being a bloke, I am stereotypically reluctant to find that out). Whatever the reason, I am so, so tired.

It doesn't help to not sleep well. Or, as hinted above, to wilfully go to bed the wrong side of the witching hour, every night, regardless of how early I have to get up the next day.

Whatever the reason, though, I am permanently tired. Not just physically exhausted (although that too, of course) but mentally and physiologically, to the point of needing to close my eyes. Later afternoons are a bad time, especially when the weather is warm like this. And as for getting through an evening on the sofa witout nodding, Jesus. Something made worse by the fact that I'm only on the sofa because I'm too damn tired to do anything else. And worst of all, after a night's sleep I wake up tired.

Someone asked me at the weekend if I'm writing at the moment. I gave my stock answer - I'd like to be but I don't have the time. That's a lie, of course. I'd like to be, and I have the time, but when I have that time I'm just too damn tired. Ditto sorting the garden out. Ditto getting fit and being more active. Ditto everything, really.

Maybe I need some chemical help to feel awake and alert, beyond the caffeine in my tea. I read a news article at the weekend about taurine, and how it may extend life and health. Yes, that's the same taurine that everyone was in a flap about a few years back because it is in energy drinks like Red Bull and Monster. So is it good for you, or bad? Family Guy thinks maybe not so good...

I've featured the obvious Pixies track before, so here's a short playlist of songs about tiredness and sleep from the usual suspects.

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Thursday 8 June 2023

New to NA... and the worst band name of all time?

I received a mailshot from a local gig venue today. One of the bands "coming soon", apparently, are Jealous Nostril, which almost made me spit my tea. Surely this is a candidate for worst band name of all time?

Anyway, terrible moniker aside, it seems that Jealous Nostril (stop laughing at the back) comprise Johnny Borrell of Razorlight on guitar, Jack Flanagan of The Mystery Jets on bass and Ellis D of, erm (consults Internet), Strange Cages on drums.

Here's a sample of what they are churning out.

Which is neither spectacular nor terrible. Other tracks on their YouTube channel suggest high Borrellage and a drum sound that doesn't seem to vary much? Or perhaps I am being uncharitable. It has been known.

Tip the authorJealous Nostril though? I'd love to know the etymology of that. Suggestions in the comments please for even worse band names. There must be plenty, right?

Monday 5 June 2023

Art for AI's sake

In which I continue to experiment with AI so you don't have to...

I read recently about a website called Night Cafe that enables users to generate all manner of pictures, in all manner of styles, without ever picking up a pencil or paintbrush. I had to have a play, of course, in my continuing but most likely futile attempt to be ready for the eventual takeover of our robot overlords.

It's pretty good, actually. You provide it with a text prompt of what you want to draw (the irony here being that you don't actually do any drawing), select a rendering model and processing algorithm, and click 'Create' (the irony here being that ... oh, you get the idea by now).

I thought I would try to create something that would never be seen otherwise, so entered a prompt of "Morrissey eating a hambuger". Here is the result:

There are, of course, a couple of things to note here. I cannot draw this well, for starters. But it's not perfect. For a start, it hasn't followed the brief: SPM is holding the burger here, not eating it. And finally, from this and other experimentations I can tell you that Night Cafe, at least, struggles with hands, their angle, their positioning, even (sometimes) the number of fingers and having two right hands and no left. Look at SPM's left hand here, for example. So it struggles with complexity ... for now, at least. I might try this again in a year's time... Tip the author

Friday 2 June 2023

About that job you love...

"Find a job you love," they say, "and you'll never work a day in your life." Well, maybe. To try to find out if that's a realistic goal, I ran a noddy survey last month, in a well-intentioned but ultimately futile attempt to gauge people's view of their livelihoods. Since the response rate has flatlined now it's time to see what, if anything, we can make of the results. Here's the headline:

A surprising (to me, at least) 30% of respondents love their jobs! I had expected this figure to be much lower, maybe because I'm on my seventh full-time job as an adult and haven't loved any of them. It's heartening to learn there are people out there doing better than me.

You'll recall I asked a load of other questions too, in a feeble attempt to discover whether demography or geography had any bearing on the headline question. I say feeble because with such a small sample size (n=20) it's hard to establish anything with any confidence, the numbers are just too small. With that in mind, here are some unreliable findings:

  • You're more likely to be in a job you love if you are self-employed (50% chance compared to 28% for employed)
  • Geographically, you've got a better than average chance of loving your job if you currently work in London or Scotland and the best chance of all if you live outside the UK altogether (make of that what you will). And it's the same three areas coming out best for where you currently live too.
  • Age-wise, only respondents in their fifties were more likely to love their jobs than not. No-one below 50 reported loving their job at all, which is slightly depressing.
  • Let's talk about sex, baby. Women seem marginally more inclined to love their jobs than men (33% compared to 27%)
  • Christians seem marginally more likely to love their jobs than those with no religion (33% vs 23%)
  • No gay or bi respondents reported loving their job

If I'd had 200 respondents, this might have been an interesting exercise. However, all it has really done is illustrate how few connections I have and how little reach. As well as the original blog post, I tweeted the survey a few times, put it on Facebook and (against my better judgment) even posted it on LinkedIn where current work colleagues no doubt took glee in the implications of me asking the question. All that, and I still only got 20 responses. I mean, really - why bother, eh?Tip the author