Sunday: Hili dialogue

April 2, 2023 • 6:45 am

It’s Sunday, April 2, 2023, and National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day.  The world’s most expensive PB&J sandwich—at a whopping $350!—is in fact available at a place in Chicago called PB&J (it stands for “Pizza, Beer, and Jukebox”. You can read about it here, and below is a photo of the sandwich is below, complete with gold leaf:

It’s also International Children’s Book Day, World Autism Awareness Day, International Fact-Checking Day, and National Ferret Day.  Have some baby ferrets:

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the April 2 Wikipedia page.

Oh, and here’s yesterday’s SNL “Weekend Update”, about Trump and his defense. It’s nowhere near as good as it used to be, but there are. . .

Da Nooz:

*A former federal proseutor, Ankush Khardori, has written a NYT op-ed with the provocative title, “Trump’s prosecution has set a dangerous precedent.” How? It’s simple but I don’t think it’s all that dangerous:

It is far from clear how this case will end. No matter what the precise charges are, the prosecution will raise unusual and arguably novel legal issues. Michael Cohen, who seems to be the key witness, may not be credible enough to persuade a jury to convict Mr. Trump, even in Manhattan. And Republicans are already mounting an effort to frame Mr. Bragg as a political hack who is weaponizing his office to take down the former president on behalf of Democrats.

The vast range, breadth and diversity of criminal laws throughout the country provide plenty of opportunity for mischief. As the attorney general and future justice Robert Jackson observed more than 80 years ago, “A prosecutor stands a fair chance of finding at least a technical violation of some act on the part of almost anyone.” He added, “It is not a question of discovering the commission of a crime and then looking for the man who has committed it; it is a question of picking the man and then searching the law books or putting investigators to work to pin some offense on him.”

I’m sorry but I simply can’t see this as a huge risk.  It still takes substantial evidence to go after an ex-President just because of the stature, and I don’t think that states—regardless of which way they lean—would do this lightly. I may be wrong, but I doubt that Joe Biden is going to be indicted for anything after he leaves office. Of course if a President or ex-President does something heinous, that’s another matter. Whether or not paying money to Stormy Daniels (actually, trying to hide the hush money illegally) is “heinous” is your judgment. But the other three investigations around Trump can in no way be seen as frivolous.

*Ivanka Trump has clearly decided to use the occasion of her father’s indictment (and assorted humiliations, including adultery and three other investigations) to bow out of involvement in politics. This despite her close connection with the White House when her father was President.  At least she added, to the announcement you can see below on CNN, that she loved her father.

Frankly, I don’t see how you can love a guy like Trump just because he’s your dad. I’m probably an outlier, but my policy towards family has always been to be there when needed, and keep in touch, but if anybody was a consistently bad person (fortunately, I never faced that situation), I’d break ties with them.

Well, Trump still has two sons who support him, and will visit him if he’s ever in stir.

*We all know that AI chatbots are going to replace humans in jobs, but which jobs are most vulnerable?  Well, I guessed “translator” when I saw the headline “The jobs most exposed to ChatGPT” in the WSJ, and I was right; but there are many others:

Accountants are among the professionals whose careers are most exposed to the capabilities of generative artificial intelligence, according to a new study. The researchers found that at least half of accounting tasks could be completed much faster with the technology.

The same was true for mathematicians, interpreters, writers and nearly 20% of the U.S. workforce, according to the study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and OpenAI, the company that makes the popular AI tool ChatGPT.

The tool has provoked excitement and anxiety in companies, schools, governments and the general public for its ability to process massive amounts of information and generate sophisticated—though not necessarily accurate or unbiased—content in response to prompts from users.

. . .They found that most jobs will be changed in some form by GPTs, with 80% of workers in occupations where at least one job task can be performed more quickly by generative AI. Information-processing roles—including public relations specialists, court reporters and blockchain engineers—are highly exposed, they found. The jobs that will be least affected by the technology include short-order cooks, motorcycle mechanics and oil-and-gas roustabouts.

To reach their conclusions, the authors used a government database of occupations and their associated activities and tasks, and had both people and artificial-intelligence models assign exposure levels to the activities and tasks.

. . .Other recent studies have also found that generative AI can save significant time and produce better results than humans can. In a Massachusetts Institute of Technology experiment focused on college-educated professionals, researchers divided 444 grant writers, marketers, consultants, human-resources professionals and other workers in half. Both groups were asked to complete short written tasks, and one group could use ChatGPT to do so.

Those with access to ChatGPT finished their tasks 10 minutes faster. And outside readers who assessed the quality of these assignments said the AI-assisted workers did better than the other group, according to the study, which was released in March and hasn’t been peer-reviewed.

There’s a lot more in the article, but at least I’m safe. This sure has moved quickly!

*If you’re a Steve Jobs fan, or simply want to know more about him, a curated collection of his letters, notes, interviews, and other material, all in his own words, and contributed by his friends and colleagues, will be available April 11 online:

. . . . a small group of his family, friends and former colleagues have collected it into “Make Something Wonderful: Steve Jobs in his own words,” available free to the public online starting on April 11. Somewhere between a posthumous memoir and a scrapbook album, it is told through notes and drafts Jobs emailed to himself, excerpts of letters and speeches, oral histories and interviews, photos and mementos. (Some physical copies are being produced for Apple and Disney employees, but that format won’t be for sale to the general public.)

Few people in recent history have been as well chronicled as Jobs. He first appeared on the cover of Time magazine before he turned 27. There are more than 162,000 YouTube videos of his speeches. Walter Isaacson’s biographical tome runs to more than 600 pages.

But Laurene Powell Jobs wanted people to be able to directly hear her husband of 20 years. “He has been written about, but this is actually his writing and his work,” she said. “So there’s no intermediary.”

. . . . he said: “One of the ways that I believe people express their appreciation to the rest of humanity is to make something wonderful and put it out there.

For Jobs, that manifested through making products, not a memoir. “That was never something that he intended to take the amount of time it would require to do,” Powell Jobs said. “One never knows, as life goes on, whether there would be a desire for that.” Disney CEO Bob Iger, who befriended Jobs when Disney partnered with and later purchased Pixar, said, “I exhorted him to sit with a producer and a camera and tell his story. In his last six months, he never got around to doing that.”

Instead, the preservation of Jobs’s legacy has been taken up by the Steve Jobs Archive, which launched last year with a website featuring a small selection of the kinds of emails and speech excerpts that appear in the book. The idea for the book grew out of an initial 40-page pamphlet that the group behind the archive, led by Silicon Valley historian Leslie Berlin, mocked up in 2017. As they kept adding items, especially photos, it grew into a book of about 250 pages.

I’ve never read Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs, but I’m going to take it to Paris, I think (I leave in about a week for 8 days of eating). I have in fact just reserved it to pick up at our library.

*There was only one radio station in all of Afghanistan run by women, and guess what happened to it? You already know: it was closed by the Taliban. Why? For playing music (during Ramadan):

A women-run radio station in Afghanistan’s northeast has been shut down for playing music during the holy month of Ramadan, a Taliban official said Saturday.

Sadai Banowan, which means women’s voice in Dari, is Afghanistan’s only women-run station and started 10 years ago. It has eight staff, six of them female.

Moezuddin Ahmadi, the director for Information and Culture in Badakhshan province, said the station violated the “laws and regulations of the Islamic Emirate” several times by broadcasting songs and music during Ramadan and was shuttered because of the breach.

“If this radio station accepts the policy of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and gives a guarantee that it will not repeat such a thing again, we will allow it to operate again,” said Ahmadi.

Station head Najia Sorosh denied there was any violation, saying there was no need for the closure and called it a conspiracy. The Taliban “told us that you have broadcast music. We have not broadcast any kind of music,” she said.

If there was no music, as the station avers, then this is just on of the Taliban’s many ways to harass and oppress women. I tend to believe the station head, and the prohibition of music and dancing by fundamentalist Islam is one of the factors Bill Maher mentioned in his expanation of why religion sucks.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili demands her just due:

Hili: You fed me and now you can give me something to drink.
A: But you have water.
Hili: I prefer cream.
In Polish:
Hili: Nakarmiłeś mnie, a teraz możesz mnie napoić.
Ja: Przecież masz wodę.
Hili: Wolę śmietankę.

And a photo of a snoozing Szaron:


From Stash Krod:

Some juvenile humor from Jesus of the Day:

An optical illusion from Bizarre and Wonderful World via Angela. No, that’s not a girl with very skinny legs. Can you figure out the illusion?

From Masih; the Google translation is this:

The Islamic Republic has not spared any crime and cruelty against #BahaisOfIran. In addition to executing and killing Baha’is, issuing prison sentences, confiscating property, expelling them from their cities and homes, preventing them from studying, as well as harassing them, are part of the Islamic Republic’s systematic repression against Baha’is. #Nahsi12th

From Ken, who asks, “What’s with Rep. Lauren Boebert’s obsession with pee?”  You got me!

From Malcolm, cats watching Tom and Jerry and an incompetent cat:

From Barry, who says, “No, this isn’t John Cleese; it’s an elk’s mating call.” Sound up, of course.

From the Auschwitz Memorial. a 14 year old girl gassed upon arrival:

Tweets from Professor Cobb. First, the famous “spaghetti tree” April Fool’s hoax. Sound up.

Have some etymology:

To get to the punch line, you’ll have to read the other five tweets in the thread:

24 thoughts on “Sunday: Hili dialogue

  1. On this day:
    1792 – The Coinage Act is passed by Congress, establishing the United States Mint.

    1800 – Ludwig van Beethoven leads the premiere of his First Symphony in Vienna.

    1902 – “Electric Theatre”, the first full-time movie theater in the United States, opens in Los Angeles.

    1911 – The Australian Bureau of Statistics conducts the country’s first national census.

    1912 – The ill-fated RMS Titanic begins sea trials.

    1917 – American entry into World War I: President Wilson asks the U.S. Congress for a declaration of war on Germany.

    1972 – Actor Charlie Chaplin returns to the United States for the first time since being labeled a communist during the Red Scare in the early 1950s.

    1980 – United States President Jimmy Carter signs the Crude Oil Windfall Profits Tax Act.

    1982 – Falklands War: Argentina invades the Falkland Islands.

    2015 – Four men steal items worth up to £200 million from an underground safe deposit facility in London’s Hatton Garden area in what has been called the “largest burglary in English legal history.”

    747 – Charlemagne, Frankish king (d. 814).

    1618 – Francesco Maria Grimaldi, Italian mathematician and physicist (d. 1663).

    1725 – Giacomo Casanova, Italian explorer and author (d. 1798).

    1788 – Wilhelmine Reichard, German balloonist (d. 1848).

    1805 – Hans Christian Andersen, Danish novelist, short story writer, and poet (d. 1875).

    1840 – Émile Zola, French novelist, playwright, journalist (d. 1902).

    1914 – Alec Guinness, English actor (d. 2000).

    1927 – Kenneth Tynan, English author and critic (d. 1980). [Often believed to have been the first person to say “fuck” on British television, during a live broadcast in 1965.]

    1928 – Serge Gainsbourg, French singer-songwriter, actor, and director (d. 1991).

    1934 – Brian Glover, English wrestler and actor (d. 1997).

    1945 – Linda Hunt, American actress.

    1946 – Sue Townsend, English author and playwright (d. 2014).

    1947 – Emmylou Harris, American singer-songwriter and guitarist.

    1960 – Linford Christie, Jamaican-English sprinter.

    I am not cute. I am the dreaded Duck of Death. People fear me, you know. There’s a whole song about it: [With apologies to Rachel Vincent.]

    1872 – Samuel Morse, American painter and academic, invented the Morse code (b. 1791).

    1928 – Theodore William Richards, American chemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1868).

    1966 – C. S. Forester, English novelist (b. 1899).

    1987 – Buddy Rich, American drummer, songwriter, and bandleader (b. 1917).

    2003 – Edwin Starr, American singer-songwriter (b. 1942).

    2022 – Estelle Harris, American actress and comedian (b. 1928).

  2. Several legal and political commentators have stated that the New York prosecutor’s case against Trump is weak with the implication that it should not have been brought, even though they haven’t actually seen the indictment. They also imply that the District Attorney Alvin Bragg is either a fool or out to gain publicity for himself while ignoring the political implications of Trump getting acquitted. Perhaps, this will turn out to be true, but, lacking impulse control, they are incapable of waiting a few days, when the indictment will be unsealed, to bloviate on how solid the case against Trump is. This is punditry at its worst.

    1. It’s interesting because I’ve heard the exact opposite from a number of lawyers. However, all of them say we need to wait to have the indictment unsealed before we know for sure.

    2. I think we have the basics. He used a lawyer to pay a prostitute to keep quiet, and he paid back the the lawyer with campaign funds. He also lied about it. This is all quite illegal, but what concerns me is that although this thing is probably jail-able, it really isn’t that terrible a crime. Politicians commonly have irregularities in campaign funds, and this one isn’t really by that much ($130,000, apparently). Meanwhile there are many technical hurdles in getting a forensically clean prosecution, lest this whole thing is thrown out on some technicality somewhere.

    3. IANAL, but I think the weakness of the case lies not so much in the legal intricacies or solidity of the legal case, but in the wider public, well, for a great part, that sees these things as minor peccadilloes.
      Compared to the pressure on Raffensperger, the January 6 coup attempt, or the dissimulation and lying about White House top secret documents in his private residence (not even to mention his ‘poodling’ for Putin), it pales into insignificance.
      He is a seditionist, a man who wanted to overthrow American democracy, a probable pawn of a hostile foreign power, and we get him on abusing campaign funds?
      Well, I guess they got Al Capone on tax fraud in the end (IIRC).

  3. I did not read Walter Issacson’s biography of Steve Jobs but do recall that several years ago I enjoyed reading “Becoming Steve Jobs” a 2015 work by Schlender and Tetzeli, a light story at about 400 pages.

  4. It does not take a substantial amount of evidence to charge anyone with a crime. As Bragg is showing, any prosecutor can do it. It can take a substantial amount of time and money to defend oneself and clear one’s name. There are no more slippery slopes.

    1. Your concern for Mr. T**** is touching.

      I believe that the state of New York has public defenders available to assist the poor, beleaguered Mr. T****.

      1. When the EU criticized Ukraine on Timoshenko during the Yanukovich reign, and Russia on Khodorkovsky in the days before Putin went full dictatorship, they used to call prosecutions like these “selective justice”, and rightly so. Trump of all people has little reason to complain, as he himself violated rules more basic to democracy than that. But as PCC said, in this case, clearly, the man was chosen before a suitable crime was found. This may be part of a strategy to make Trump relevant again/increase his support among those who see him as a victim here, all in the hope of having him win the primaries because he is the weakest possible Republican candidate.

  5. The precedent was already set with the Bill Clinton / Paula Jones case.
    “Perjury” is a cliche, but Clinton really did sail very close the legal line in his testimony, maybe over it. On the other hand, as far as I’ve read, “perjury” is not something usually prosecuted in such a situation.

    I have no trouble imagining an axe-grinding prosecutor could work up some charge against Joe Biden based on his alleged involvement in some of Hunter Biden’s shady stuff. Joe might be entirely innocent, because Hunter lied in order to present himself as having influence to sell. But good luck dealing with that in court.

  6. Mark Forsyth writes in The Etymologicon that “effect” journeyed to the Scottish Highlands where it was cruelly robbed of its extremities and became “feck”. Then its impotent suffix form limped alone back to England.

  7. I’d be interested in your thoughts about Isaacson’s biography of Jobs. I liked it. Engaging and very readable. It seemed balanced, but it’s hard to know without knowing more about Jobs himself. I read Isaacson’s books as soon as they come out.

    Regarding AI… . I don’t know how vulnerable air traffic controllers are, but it seems to me that computers may be able to do much of the work of guiding planes with fewer errors than humans. Even in congested areas (*especially* in congested areas), computers can handle more data, more quickly, and with less chance of error (due to volume of work and stress). And if the ground management and the airplanes themselves can *both* be tethered to the same system, one can imagine that even more traffic can be handled safely. We seem to be pushing the limits of what humans can do today.

    I know that it seems scary not to have humans controlling these systems, but computers are not affected by human frailties, such as exhaustion, stress, information overload, slowness of thought, and more. Pilots have pushed back against computers controlling their planes, and ground personnel will likely do the same. But it seems to me that we should be heading towards more computer control.

  8. I missed doctors in the list of professionals part of whose job could be done well by a generative AI. Much of diagnostics, therapy and medication decisions could already been done by non-generative algorithms (written by professionals on the basis of current best practice standards in differential diagnosis and the like). Doctors/nurses/lab technicians are needed for manual procedures, the thinking part of the job of most MDs that don’t work in research could easily be done, and probably eventually with fewer mishaps, by an AI trained on expert knowledge and large medical databases.

    1. Indeed “part of whose job”. I think future physicians (and even surgeons) will see generative AI as a great addition to, becoming an indispensable part of, their resources. Like handbooks and atlases, and more recently internet, used to be, but on a higher level.

  9. I have real doubts about the ability of AI to translate, at least in the reasonably near future. Programs like ChatGPT may be able to “write” sentences that are logically coherent and grammatically correct, by something like a super “cut and paste” from the corpus they have studied; but it’s been well documented that they will make provably false statements, create imaginary citations, and so on. Bad enough that they do this all in one language, now ask them to take a document in a first language and convert it into a logically coherent, grammatically correct, faithful rendering in a second – and to do it between languages with different sentence structures (e.g., German and English) and/or between languages with different character sets (e.g., Chinese/Japanese/Korean and English).
    Interpreting would be even more difficult, especially when the speaker has an accent, mumbles, “um”s and “ah”s a lot, and so on.

    1. Translation programs used to be hopelessly out of their depths in translating between languages of hugely different structure, e.g., between Turkish and any Germanic or Romance language. (Turkish is syntactically like Japanese, but with lots and lots of case and personal endings on verbs and nouns.) The output in both directions was utterly ridiculous. That was 5 years ago. Just recently, I happened upon a Google translation into Turkish and was flabbergasted to see that it had produced perfectly good text including subordinate clauses and grammatical endings.

      1. You’re right that these programs have improved dramatically. The point is not that they’ll never make a mistake. Since they’ll hardly ever be aware of the full context of a text, they may never be error-free. The point is that they increase productivity tremendously. Yesterday I had to translate a long document. What would have taken me some ten (tedious) hours without AI took me just one. And the result was probably better too. So the point is that now one translator can do the work of ten, which may mean nine translators out of work or, perhaps more optimistically, more texts being translated (or some combination thereof).

        1. You’re right that these programs have improved dramatically. The point is not that they’ll never make a mistake.

          That’s not the criterion by which they will be judged. The point at which their use becomes dramatically more significant will be when they start making fewer mistakes than a human translator (or essay-writer) of average skill. Then, and quite rapidly, it will become a question of economics – I have a budget of 100 units ; will I get more column inches of translation (or essay) from a human writer, or an AI writer.
          When insurance companies start charging a premium for humans who wish to drive their vehicles themselves when the autopilot could be engaged, then we will rapidly see AI similarly becoming the norm.
          Do you know the story about the original autopilots in planes? A new plane is introduced, with room for one pilot and a dog in the cockpit.
          “How does that work?” asked a journalist? “Well, explained the safety engineer, the human pilots’ job is to feed sandwiches to the dog.”
          “And the dog?” pursued the journalist. “Oh, his job is to bite the pilot if he goes near the controls.”

  10. “Since they’ll hardly ever be aware of the full context of a text” that is certainly true now, but what in a few decades? I see generative AI looking up sources, references, statistics and criticisms in a flash, and getting a better notion than most of us bumbling mortals.
    Eg. Dawkins’ parody of PG Woodhouse “The Great Bus Mystery” would easily be recognised as a parody of Woodhouse, if only by the use of typical expressions. And it would ‘read’ all of Dawkins’ works in a jiffy too. But yes, I guess that is still decades away.
    Don’t get me wrong, your point about productivity is to the point.

  11. “There’s a lot more in the article, but at least I’m safe. This sure has moved quickly!”

    This made me think about the value we may assign to interacting with real humans or knowing that a human is behind a given creation, be it text, art, music, etc. vs the value we assign to just the exchange of ideas and the creations themselves.

    For example, we can imagine feeding every Hili Dialogue post that Jerry has written to an AI and asking it to create a new one every day from now on mirroring Jerry’s style and content. Let’s imagine that the AI-generated posts are indistinguishable from Jerry’s and that Jerry stops writing them himself, and that all his readers know this. Would readership and engagement remain the same?

Leave a Reply