Month: November 2004

  • Clone Wars Watchlist

    So it turns out that 30th Street Station is completely insane on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. The problem is only made worse when the schedule board at the Amtrak information desk is out of order.

    Also, never sit between the pillars to the sides of the main hall at 30th Street. It turns out that there is a total acoustical dead zone there, such that you cannot hear PA announcements. I know I wasn’t just zoning out, because I was with a group of other Swatties, none of whom heard the announcement. I missed my train and had to wait an extra 2 hours. I guess I should have harassed the guy at the info desk more often, or milled around in the middle of the station for a few minutes longer.

    For me, the one (and nearly only) thing that really gets me stressed consists of two parts: first, having to rely on someone else, and second, having no information on their status. In this case, I was relying on Amtrak for a train, but I had no way to know when my train was arriving. I really prefer the controlled environment of an airport, with proper gates, to the morass of humanity that is 30th Street.

    After a short wait in the ticketing line, I got a rescheduled ticket for no fee. At least that went smoothly.

    I actually got on a slightly earlier train, because someone I was waiting with was told that we should just try to get on the first train to Washington that we could get on. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear about this until the train immediately before my rescheduled one, but it still saved me about 30 minutes.

    I noticed on the trip down that we had to slow down or stop to allow freight trains to pass. Is this why Amtrak is always behind schedule, because the trains have to give right-of-way to freight running on the same line?

    I finally arrived at Union Station in D.C. and met my parental units (who had flown in) and my sister (who is interning at Bread for the World this semester). The D.C. Metro is very nice – everything is very clean, and the stations have a consistent and retro-futuristic all-concrete design.

    The security at my sister’s dorm is ridiculous. She has to fill out a form, get it signed by all of her roommates and her RA. I have to give up my ID to get the overnight pass. On top of that, I could only stay with her for 3 nights, and (not that this is relevant) a given individual can only stay 5 times in a semester. Also, the security guard was ornery. You’d think that they could have a little more lax system for family members.

    I’m always amazed at the bureaucracy that Boston University (where she attends) has in comparison to Swarthmore. I understand that at a bigger school you can’t have as much individualized attention, so you need paperwork to keep track of everyone, but I don’t understand why the rules need to be draconian as well. If a roommate’s significant other is visiting too often, that seems like an issue that should be solved among roommates, or at worst, involve the RA. It certainly doesn’t require a strict procedure and duplicate forms. Maybe it’s just the libertarian in me sneaking out.

    At any rate, Wednesday became a long day, even though it only started at noon. Thankfully, the extra time gave me the opportunity to finally read a lot of System of the World, the third book of Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle. I had barely started it when I received the book for my birthday, and I was nodding off at the time, so I decided to start over. It’s really, really good so far…

  • Sunspot

    A small Yorkshire Terrier lies in a pet bed on a green upholstered chair in a sunny living room.

    I wish I could nap like Pike naps.

  • The Muppets Meet Murderbot

    For the last year and a half or so Andrle and I have been having a ton of fun as part of an online book club put together by my friend Tanya. Unlike most book clubs where you all read the same thing, we all just share things we love that we’ve been reading.

    One recommendation that kept coming up was The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells, and I’m glad we finally ran with it and started reading them. We’ve been bingeing the last few weeks and they’re really, really great. Highly recommend (even though I’m only on Book 4.)

    Unsurprisingly another thing I’ve been reading about and thinking about a lot is the advent of Large Language Models, particularly as manifested by ChatGPT. My past work life as an NLP practitioner has me a mix of curious, envious, and highly suspicious of what these are and how they’re being used. In the short term I don’t mind using them as a toy that I can play with for the purpose of a joke, which is what this post is about.

    A recurring topic in this book club is how we might have the Muppets interpret a particular book, or how we might recast a movie with Muppets (but keep one human actor). This provides a lot of fun discussions, especially since I grew up regularly watching the classic Muppet movies on VHS recorded off of TV, and I really like musicals.

    That all brings me to some prompt iterating that I did to get ChatGPT to write the painfully cliché finale to a Muppet musical featuring Murderbot. (Apologies to both Henson and Wells.)

    Verse 1 (Murderbot):
    I used to be a killing machine,
    A rogue cyborg, feared and mean,
    But then I met the Muppets and Kermit,
    And learned what friendship truly meant.

    Verse 2 (Kermit):
    I'm just a simple frog, it's true,
    But I believe in friendship too,
    And when I met Murderbot, I knew,
    Together we could do something new.

    Chorus (All):
    We don't need to kill no more,
    Our friends are all we're fighting for,
    With Murderbot and Kermit side by side,
    We'll show the world what we stand for.

    Verse 3 (Murderbot):
    I never wanted to be a tool,
    But that's all humans see in me, it's cruel,
    I used to dream of breaking free,
    From their endless schemes and greed.

    Verse 4 (Kermit):
    It's true, I'm always happy-go-lucky,
    But I've been through some tough times that were quite yucky,
    But now with Murderbot and the gang,
    I know our friendship will never hang.

    Chorus (All):
    We don't need to kill no more,
    Our friends are all we're fighting for,
    With Murderbot and Kermit side by side,
    We'll show the world what we stand for.

    The past is gone, the future bright,
    With friends like these, we'll win the fight,
    Our love and trust will guide us through,
    Together we'll see this journey through.

    Chorus (All):
    We don't need to kill no more,
    Our friends are all we're fighting for,
    With Murderbot and Kermit side by side,
    We'll show the world what we stand for.

    So let's raise our voices high,
    And let the world hear our battle cry,
    With Muppets and Murderbot side by side,
    We'll change the world and turn the tide.
    OpenAI. (2023, Mar. 16) [Iterative prompt conversation starting with “This Muppet movie is about a rogue cyborg traveling to different space stations and learning the power of friendship from the Muppets” and “I need some lyrics for the big finals. The music is big broadway style number about how the rogue cyborg doesn’t need to kill bad guys anymore because it has friends.” and then encouraging more dialogue between Kermit and Murderbot]

    Yes, I looked up recommendations on how to properly cite ChatGPT output.

    Overall the result was mildly amusing. I couldn’t get it to capture Murderbot’s signature style, presumably because while information about the novellas are in its model training, not enough text from the novellas are in there.

    I’m still not sure what useful things I could do with this kind of tool, but in the meantime, I can make it make silly songs.

  • Fox Ferocity

    Pike playing with a toy almost as big as he is.

  • Groomed Pike

    Tiny freshly groomed Yorkie sits on a teal couch wearing a monstera bow tie

    I love this little gentleman.

  • The Kale Wanter

    A small black and brown Yorkie stands on a cream rug in front of a brown cupboard begging for the bunch of lacinato kale in hand in the foreground.