Tuesday: Hili dialogue

January 17, 2023 • 6:45 am

Welcome to The Cruelest Day: Tuesday, in this case January 17, 2023. The good news is that Monday was a holiday, so the work week is shorter. It’s National Hot Buttered Rum Day, matey!

It’s also Ben Franklin Day (he was born on this day in Boston in 1706), National Hot Heads Chili Day, National Bootlegger’s Day (also the birthday of Al Capone), and Rid the World of Fad Diets and Gimmicks Day.

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the January 17 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*Obituaries first. The Italian movie star Gina Lollobrigida has died at 95 in Rome.

According to Italian news agency Lapresse, Lollobrigida died in a clinic in Rome. No cause of death has been cited. In September she had had surgery to repair a thigh bone broken in a fall, but she recovered and competed for a Senate seat in Italy’s elections held last year in September, though she did not win.

And from Wikipedia:

She was one of the highest-profile European actresses of the 1950s and early 1960s, a period in which she was an international sex symbol. At the time of her death, Lollobrigida was among the last living high-profile international actors from the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema.

As her film career slowed, Lollobrigida established a second career as a photojournalist. In the 1970s she achieved a scoop by gaining access to Fidel Castro for an exclusive interview.

Lollobrigida continued on as an active supporter of Italian and Italian-American causes, particularly the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF). In 2008, she received the NIAF Lifetime Achievement Award at the Foundation’s Anniversary Gala.  In 2013 she sold her jewelry collection and donated the nearly US $5 million from the sale to benefit stem-cell therapy research

Here’s a scene from the 1956 movie “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” in which Lollobrigida stars as Esmerelda and Anthony Quinn as Quasimodo:

*The NYT reports on the increasing problem of AI-“chatbots” that can write essays for students. One of my fellow teachers had this problem lately because one can spot “bot” essays for the nonce. This will get harder! In some not-so-hot schools, professors spot AI essays because they are too good!

While grading essays for his world religions course last month, Antony Aumann, a professor of philosophy at Northern Michigan University, read what he said was easily “the best paper in the class.” It explored the morality of burqa bans with clean paragraphs, fitting examples and rigorous arguments.

A red flag instantly went up.

Mr. Aumann confronted his student over whether he had written the essay himself. The student confessed to using ChatGPT, a chatbot that delivers information, explains concepts and generates ideas in simple sentences — and, in this case, had written the paper.

Alarmed by his discovery, Mr. Aumann decided to transform essay writing for his courses this semester. He plans to require students to write first drafts in the classroom, using browsers that monitor and restrict computer activity. In later drafts, students have to explain each revision. Mr. Aumann, who may forgo essays in subsequent semesters, also plans to weave ChatGPT into lessons by asking students to evaluate the chatbot’s responses.

I always gave in-class exams in which most questions were answered with very short essays, and I had no essays assigned save lab reports, which can’t be faked this way. But woe unto humanities folks! Here’s one solution: make AI essays identifiable somehow:

That’s especially true as generative A.I. is in its early days. OpenAI is expected to soon release another tool, GPT-4, which is better at generating text than previous versions. Google has built LaMDA, a rival chatbot, and Microsoft is discussing a $10 billion investment in OpenAI. Silicon Valley start-ups, including Stability AI and Character.AI, are also working on generative A.I. tools.

An OpenAI spokeswoman said the lab recognized its programs could be used to mislead people and was developing technology to help people identify text generated by ChatGPT.

And there are programs that give you the probability that an essay was generated by an AI program. In the case my colleague dealt with, it was near 100%.

This wouldn’t be needed, of course, if some students didn’t cheat. It’s a sad blot on human nature that we have to make these changes to keep students from cheating.

*Looking for a job that will make you happy, or one that will stress you out less, or add meaning to your life? There are no jobs that maximize these bonuses, but some do a lot better than others .The Washington Post ranks jobs for all these criteria, and I’ll put their graph below.

Agriculture, logging and forestry have the highest levels of self-reported happiness — and lowest levels of self-reported stress — of any major industry category, according to our analysis of thousands of time journals from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey. (Additional reporting sharpened our focus on lumberjacks and foresters, but almost everyone who works on farms or in forests stands out.)

Heath-care and social workers rate themselves as doing the most meaningful work of anybody (apart from the laudable lumberjacks), but they rank lower on the happiness scale. They also rank high on stress.

The most stressful sectors are the industry including finance and insurance, followed by education and the broad grouping of professional and technical industries, a sector that includes the single most stressful occupation: lawyers. Together, they paint a simple picture: A white collar appears to comes with significantly more stress than a blue one.

The chart is below. The article explains why forestry may be the BEST job (for one thing, you’re working outdoors and there isn’t much stress, but what I found curious is that science and technical work ranks near the bottom. Well, it made me happy, and I found it meaningful and not nearly as stressful as, say, an office job. Have a look and see where you fit:

They also rank activities for the same three criteria, and here are those results:

The most meaningful and happiness-inducing activities were religious and spiritual, which doesn’t tell us much about farming or forestry — at least not as it’s commonly practiced in the United States. But the second-happiest activity — sports, exercise and recreation — helps crack the case.

Like farming, recreation ranks high on both happiness and pain. And the two activities have one obvious thing in common: They take place outside. Preferably in nature. The slight pain is a sign of demanding physical exertion, and the price of getting outdoors.

Combining these data, the best life you could have, it would seem, would be to be a religious lumberjack and exercise on the side (though being a lumberjack is exercise.

*After a visit to the Texas/Mexico border, the mayor of New York City, a Democrat, has excoriated the Biden Administration—and the federal government as a whole—for contributing to the immigration mess at the U.S.’s southern border:

During a visit to the Texas border city of El Paso, New York Mayor Eric Adams offered up a blistering criticism of the federal government’s response to the influx of immigrants into U.S. cities, saying, “We need clear coordination.”

He said Sunday that cities where immigrants are flowing to need help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“Our cities are being undermined. And we don’t deserve this. Migrants don’t deserve this. And the people who live in the cities don’t deserve this,” Adams said as he wrapped up a weekend visit to El Paso. “We expect more from our national leaders to address this issue in a real way.”

Adams said New York City has been overwhelmed. Since last spring, New York City has welcomed about 40,000 asylum seekers, and last week they saw a record of close to 840 asylum seekers arriving in one day, according to Adams.

“New York cannot take more. We can’t,” Adams said, adding that other cities also can’t take more.

“No city deserves what is happening,” he said.

Adams, a Democrat, also criticized the practice of some governors of transporting immigrants straight from the border to cities including New York City. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, over the last year has sent buses of immigrants to Democratic-led cities as a way to maximize exposure over what he said is inaction by the Biden administration over high numbers of migrants crossing on the southern border.

Yes, the busing (especially to Kamala Harris’s home) was a petulant and immature act of retribution, but we can’t expect Texas to absorb all the immigrants. What strikes me about Adams’s criticism is that he offers no solution himself; he just says the gub’nint should fix it. At least Biden has proposed concrete quotas and rules, whlle Adams just says that everyone has been treated unfairly.  I don’t think those who have crossed the border illegally have. What, Mr. Adams, do you propose should be done. The whole problem results from an excess of kvetching and a dearth of action.

*I was happy when Chicago elected a black, gay, woman mayor, Lori Lightfoot, in 2019, for I thought she’d help heal racial divisions in the city, which is what she promised. She didn’t deliver. Crime went up, she hasn’t shown much leadership, and I lost faith in her. Now she’s an underdog, as The Wall Street Journal reports:

Mayor Lori Lightfoot is facing stiff competition from a large field of candidates in her re-election bid as Chicago tackles crime and the lingering economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ms. Lightfoot, a 60-year-old former federal prosecutor, was the first Black woman and first gay person elected mayor of the nation’s third-largest city, winning every city ward in a 2019 runoff against Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. Now, early polls show the mayor as an underdog in the Feb. 28 election, with the top two vote-getters expected to face off in an April runoff if no candidate wins a majority in the first round.

“I think there is a lot of disappointment in the communities that I represent, about having high hopes for her and being very disappointed in her performance,” said Alderman Tom Tunney, a pro-business restaurant owner in the city’s liberal Lakeview neighborhood, who is retiring from the council at the end of his term and had considered his own mayoral bid.

Ms. Lightfoot faces eight rivals, including six other Black candidates, which could dilute some of her support; U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” Garcia (D., Ill.) who is Hispanic; and former schools chief Paul Vallas, who is white.

As the article implies, crime is a big deal here in Chicago, and the concern is universal. Lightfoot hasn’t done anything to reduce it.

In 2019, Ms. Lightfoot promised an overhaul of police oversight, more openness and collaboration and investment in all of the city’s neighborhoods, not just the downtown Loop, seeking to contrast herself from her predecessor, former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, now serving as the U.S. Ambassador to Japan.

She made progress with the city’s long-term budget issues, but crime has remained a major issue. McDonald’s Corp. moved its headquarters to the city’s West Loop neighborhood in 2018, and its chief executive said in the fall that public-safety problems were a barrier to getting workers to return downtown.

I’ll probably vote for Chuy Garcia on February 28, as he’s got a ton of experience and is good on crime and schools.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili may be speaking both metaphorically and literally, much like Augustine of Hippo:

A: What are you doing here?
Hili: I’m observing the rise of darkness.
In Polish:
Ja: Co tu robisz?
Hili: Obserwuję narastanie mroku.


From Bruce. This is SO true, and I was one of those kids:

From Merilee. I still can’t figure out how the cat got up there:

. . . and from the FB site America’s Culture Decline into Idiocy (a great group to follow):

Neither God nor Titania is tweeting today, but here’s a Titania substitute:

From Masih in solidarity with others. The IRGC is the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps:

From Barry, best buddies (note sentimental music):

From reader j.j.p., who saw this and said this:

This morning I clicked on one of your Hilli dialogue twitter posts and followed the thread to see if anything else of interest turned up.  I was suddenly stopped in mid-click, agape at this video of what I first took to be an absolutely brilliant Welsh avant-garde performance piece – a satire of Mother Teresa as a giant puppet with a horse skull for a face.

But no, alas, it was the enacting of a Welsh folk tradition.  But it’ll always be the giant horse-skull Mother Teresa puppet to me.  There are many styles of decorative band for the puppet’s sheet but it’s the simple, single blue band that makes it Mother Teresa.

Sure looks like it!

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a brother and sister gassed upon arrival:

Tweets from Matthew.

Matthew wrote about these dangers in his latest book, which came out in the U.S. yesterday:

A thread showing the remarkable restoration of a sea-worn teddy bear. There are other tweets on the site.

Can you spot Ingenuity, the small helicopter launched by the Persevrance Martian rover? The reveal is below the fold:

Click “read more” to see the reveal of the helicopter:

Here it is!

36 thoughts on “Tuesday: Hili dialogue

  1. On this day:
    1773 – Captain James Cook leads the first expedition to sail south of the Antarctic Circle.

    1904 – Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard receives its premiere performance at the Moscow Art Theatre.

    1912 – British polar explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott reaches the South Pole, one month after Roald Amundsen.

    1920 – Alcohol Prohibition begins in the United States as the Volstead Act goes into effect.

    1945 – Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg is taken into Soviet custody while in Hungary; he is never publicly seen again.

    1946 – The UN Security Council holds its first session.

    1977 – Capital punishment in the United States resumes after a ten-year hiatus, as convicted murderer Gary Gilmore is executed by firing squad in Utah.

    1991 – Gulf War: Operation Desert Storm begins early in the morning as aircraft strike positions across Iraq, it is also the first major combat sortie for the F-117.

    1998 – Clinton–Lewinsky scandal: Matt Drudge breaks the story of the Bill Clinton–Monica Lewinsky affair on his Drudge Report website.

    2013 – Former cyclist Lance Armstrong confesses to his doping in an airing of Oprah’s Next Chapter.

    1706 – Benjamin Franklin, American publisher, inventor, and politician, 6th President of Pennsylvania (d. 1790).

    1820 – Anne Brontë, English author and poet (d. 1849).

    1880 – Mack Sennett, Canadian-American actor, director, and producer (d. 1960).

    1899 – Al Capone, American mob boss (d. 1947).

    1907 – Alfred Wainwright, British fellwalker, guidebook author and illustrator (d. 1991).

    1922 – Betty White, American actress, game show panelist, television personality, and animal rights activist (d. 2021).

    1931 – James Earl Jones, American actor.

    1933 – Shari Lewis, American actress, puppeteer/ventriloquist, and television host (d. 1998). [Best known for her puppet Lamb Chop.]

    1942 – Muhammad Ali, American boxer and activist (d. 2016).

    1949 – Mick Taylor, English singer-songwriter and guitarist. [Aged 20, he made his stage debut with the Rolling Stones at the free concert in Hyde Park, London on 5 July 1969. An estimated quarter of a million people were in the audience. No pressure, then…!]

    1955 – Steve Earle, American singer-songwriter, musician, record producer, author and actor.

    1959 – Susanna Hoffs, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and actress.

    1964 – Michelle Obama, American lawyer and activist, 46th First Lady of the United States.

    1911 – Francis Galton, English polymath, anthropologist, and geographer (b. 1822).

    2008 – Bobby Fischer, American chess player and author (b. 1943).

    2012 – Johnny Otis, American singer-songwriter and producer (b. 1921). [The “Godfather of Rhythm and Blues”, he discovered Etta James, Big Mama Thornton, Jackie Wilson, and many others.]

    1. I loved Shari Lewis when I was a boy. I have fond memories of playing with my Lamb Chop and Charlie Horse hand puppets.
      I first started feeling old the day she died.

      1. A bit of trivia: Shari Lewis was married to Jeremy Tarcher, who published a raft of New Age books, many of them bestsellers.

    2. Aged 20, he [Mick Taylor] made his stage debut with the Rolling Stones at the free concert in Hyde Park, London on 5 July 1969. An estimated quarter of a million people were in the audience.

      Held two days after the death by drowning of original Stones’ bandmember Brian Jones.

    3. 1977 – Capital punishment in the United States resumes after a ten-year hiatus, as convicted murderer Gary Gilmore is executed by firing squad in Utah.

      Gilmore was executed so quickly after SCOTUS lifted the moratorium on capital punishment in Gregg v. Georgia (1976) because he waived his right to an appeal or to seek any type of collateral relief from his conviction and sentence and sought to be executed as quickly as possible.

      Norman Mailer’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “nonfiction novel,” The Executioner’s Song, essentially did with Gilmore and his crimes what Mr. Capote did with Perry Smith, Dick Hickock, and the Clutter family in In Cold Blood.

  2. I’m taking the work article to suggest that, for more sedentary activities, one needs to frequently pause to move their body around to get ample air, oxygen breathing, and blood flow. I have a hunch that is correlated with “happiness” and other stuff. And I mean merely getting up to move around every 20 minutes – no “gym” necessary.

  3. There’s some really dark stuff on this blog. Like, that big ginger tabby, that’s been inhaling the soul out of some poor octogenarian so much that it looks like some kind of shrunken toddler? Content warnings, please!

  4. “We had no idea how good we had it and no clue that we were the last ones.”

    This statement and the accompanying picture could inspire long essays. The photo was obviously shot in the 1950s in a lily white suburban neighborhood of baby boomer children. This particular demographic may very well have ended up with lives better than any other subsequent cohort, at least in the economic sphere. Of course, many urban youth did not have the bright future of their suburban peers. It was also the era of the Cold War where students engaged in nuclear blast drills where they had to hide under their desks as if that would have made the slightest difference if the bomb dropped. Racial turmoil was gaining steam and would fully erupt in the 1960s. Fear of communism was rampant.

    For many whites and not just those that grew up during this period, the 1950s is viewed through rose colored glasses. The photo epitomizes this viewpoint. This is the era they want to go back to as if they had a time machine, even if didn’t really exist for many – simplicity, homogeneity, hope for the future, a secure middle-class life, religion, family, traditional marriage, and social stability. What this photo depicts rattles in the back of the minds of the Trump supporters.

    1. But look at the bright side: What lifted us out of this bleak past was the invention of helicopter parenting.

    2. I agree with Historian that the 50s were not, in fact, Great (as some fantasize about making it again).  While I had a wonderful childhood, similar to the kids in the photo, I often think about my mother – a clever, intelligent woman trapped in a suburban nightmare of home and kids…and I think of the fact that our town had separate schools, swimming pools and drinking fountains for the black kids.

      1. Yeah, it wasn’t that great a time for closeted homosexuals, either — or for Jews who wanted to join country clubs. There was a lot of Douglas Sirk-style melodrama roiling under those placid, conformist exteriors.

    3. I think you may be overreading this a bit (though I could be wrong). I took the meme to be referring to the fact that kids used to play outside, without constant parental hovering/helicoptering and organized “play-dates”, and for the most part were not only fine doing it but benefitted from it.

      I grew up in the seventies, in a factory town, and at that age I was the only “white” member of my earliest play group. I don’t know where any of the other kids are now, but I doubt any of THEM have been to prison. Still, I consider myself to have truly enjoyed playing outside with my friends even at a young age, and think it’s a beneficial thing for young children to do, and that its absence or diminution is a shame and possibly a significant loss to those who grow up without it.

      Not every meme has to address ALL possible aspects of societal justice or injustice or dysfunction as part of making one wistful point, and not every photo chosen to make such a particular point has to be critiqued based on its happenstance of racial representation or its place in history or privilege or whatever. None of the children in this picture chose where they lived or who their parents were or the fact that the picture was taken, or any of it. They were kids, playing outside with each other and enjoying their childhood.

      I took the meme to be lamenting the fact that fewer kids today will experience that–and I suspect that, ironically, it is the more socioeconomically advantaged children who will be more likely to have that experience curtailed. That’s speculation, though, and I may well be wrong.

      1. That was my take as well. But I do disagree that the kids in the photo represent the last to enjoy the freedom of playing outside all day with little to no supervision. Like you I grew up exactly like that in the 70s (and late 60s), 20 years after that picture was taken.

        Also, my kids along with some other kids in the neighborhood grew up that way too. In the later 2000s and early 20-teens. They didn’t play video games, never had a game console in our house, or spend all their time on computers or cell-phones. They were outside playing as soon as they got up and you had to go find them to get them to come home and eat. Just like me at their age.

        It’s true that times change, and that the changes can be significant, but they are usually not universal.

        1. I already left a similar comment to the same effect. I see kids running around my own neighborhood all the time.

          And let’s not forget that before video games, there were still board games, puzzles, legos, and plenty of other inside toys. I grew up right as video games were becoming a big deal, but I can still think of plenty of afternoons lost to Risk, Monopoly, or a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle, with adults lamenting about us kids not running around outside like the good old days.

      2. That was my take as well. I watched a few of those “kids in the 50’s-60’s” videos and a lot of young people in the comments were lamenting over the incredible freedom children once had. “Go out and play — come home when the streetlights come on” is practically incomprehensible to those raised in an era which prioritizes safety and supervision.

        It wasn’t really safer back then. A combination of social factors changed our views on the prevalence of danger, the vulnerability of children, and the evaluation of what it means to be a Good Parent.

        1. And no skateboards!

          Bicycle helmets have gone out of fashion since the pandemic. I don’t mean just for kids on tricycles. I mean for adults riding adult bikes on roads. Anyone notice that? The only people wearing them now are us old people who have worn them for years.

          At first I thought that young people not wearing helmets were just drug dealers or casing the neighbourhood. But it’s all of ’em now.

          1. I haven’t noticed that, I’ll have to pay attention. Not a lot of bike riders out here in the winter, though.

    4. I was wondering what they were supposedly the “last ones” of, anyway? Is it meant to imply that kids don’t play outside anymore? I see kids playing outside all the time in my own neighborhood, including riding around on their bikes or scooters without their parents. Maybe those kids in the picture are a touch on the young side (kids that age in my neighborhood would probably stick to their own yards/driveways), but it’s not like neighborhoods are lacking for older elementary school and middle school kids running around.

  5. Strangely enough my family tree has a direct line back to Benjamin Franklin. My father is American but my mom is Canadian. Anyway, we went on a family vacation to Philadelphia when I was in Grade 7. My dad was proud to show me as much about Ben Franklin as he could. At one exhibit my dad mentioned to the curator that Ben Franklin was his 7th great grandfather. The curator chuckled and said half of Philadelphia was related to ol’ Ben because he slept around a lot.

  6. And there are programs that give you the probability that an essay was generated by an AI program. In the case my colleague dealt with, it was near 100%.

    This worries me a little. While I think detecting AI-generated essays is probably a good thing, an overreliance on automated tools may lead to negative consequences. Better to structure the work in such a way that using ChatGPT and the like is of no benefit.

    I’m reminded of an assignment I did in English 11. I spent several hours one evening sweating over my composition (which was less than a page!) to get it as perfect as I could. My English teacher was convinced I plagiarized it. Even when my sister, in the same class, vouched for all the time I spent on it, he was skeptical.

    I think about a student in a similar situation, whose teacher has used an AI-detection tool and becomes convinced the student cheated. How would you convince him/her otherwise?

  7. About the well-being of various occupations: there isn’t a whole lot of difference between top and bottom. Would you be able to tell the difference, from talking to someone whose occupation you didn’t know, whether his well-being was 4.4 or 3.6?
    That’s the whole gamut, from So to La. There is also a survivorship bias. People generally quit jobs (or don’t go into them in the first place) if they find the work distasteful or a poor match for their skills and abilities. You kind of have to be happy doing what you do in order to stay working at least until you save your F-you money. (Pro Tip: Don’t get divorced.)

  8. In other news, the BBC’s regular “Winterwatch” series has started today. Owls, jackdaws, backswimmers, urban foxes, reindeer in the Cairngorms…and Chris Packham presiding as usual. Live webcams available most of the day. The hour-long programmes are on for the next two weeks, and repeated on the iPlayer, if you can get it.

  9. Would it be bad form to single out comments on this website that are likely AI-generated?

    Because I recall one exchange where the thought crossed my mind.

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