Tag: current events

  • Clone Wars Watchlist

    “From the stars, knowledge.”

    This happens to be the Latin motto of Starfleet Academy, but it’s a phrase that’s stuck in my head as reflection of where I think our future as a species lies. Few people embodied that spirit better than Dr. Sally Ride, who died yesterday at the age of 61 from pancreatic cancer. She was a huge influence on my early childhood dreams of becoming a scientist and astronaut; outside of my parents, she was absolutely one of my heroes.

    Grief at a Distance

    I first found out about the death of Dr. Ride on Twitter, by someone retweeting Boing Boing. This news came as quite a shock, as she was relatively young, and had kept her cancer diagnosis private. I even experienced the denial stage a bit, seeking to verify that she had in fact died; I suppose it’s not fair to Boing Boing that I didn’t trust a retweet of theirs, but Twitter is not exactly the place to get reliable information about celebrity deaths.

    This affected me emotionally far more than the death of Steve Jobs did, a comparison I can’t help but make since I wrote about his death as well. I was finishing up work, and didn’t get much done for half an hour or so as I found myself suppressing tears, and reading a few of the early obituaries. I didn’t jump into the discussion of her life on Twitter, but I did write a brief tribute on Facebook, and hammered out some quick thoughts on Google+ while I was in the moment (all of which are replicated here in longer form).

    There were a couple of factors that made this harder for me – the first I think was the surprise element (whereas Steve’s illness had been fairly public, if spun in favor of recovery). The second was that, as influential as Dr. Ride had been on me as a kid, I had been pretty disconnected from her post-astronaut career in science education. I was brought back to how I felt about her when I was little, while The Steve was indirectly present in my recent day-to-day experiences. The last aspect is that Sally Ride inspired my childhood dreams on a path that I did not end up following.

    Hero in the Blue Jumpsuit

    I was a huge fan of Dr. Ride when I was little. I knew enough of her biography that I had decided, by age 5, that I would go to Stanford, get an engineering degree (aerospace if possible), become an astronaut, and then settle down to design airplanes for Boeing. When I got my own bedroom around that time, my decor of choice was a floor-to-ceiling photo wallpaper of one of the space shuttles gliding in for a landing. My recollection is that in 2nd grade, I did a presentation on Dr. Ride, complete with blue jumpsuit, velcro, and NASA patch that my mom had sewn for me. I thought I also wore it for Halloween that year, but my mom checked the photo albums and I must be misremembering.

    Suffice it to say, I was, and still am, a huge fan of space exploration, and Sally Ride was for me a role model who had gotten that opportunity. Obviously I haven’t become an astronaut, but I still plan to go into space one day, even if it’s just as a tourist. I never went to Space Camp, and I didn’t major in aerospace engineering, but I think that fundamental spirit of scientific exploration is still with me, and Dr. Ride’s example was part of my inspiration in that area.

    I’ve noticed a lot of the coverage mentioning that she was an inspiration for women in the sciences. While that’s true, I feel like that makes it sound like she wasn’t trying to be an inspiration to the little Nicks of the world. I don’t want to make this tribute political, but I think that young children can learn a love for science long before they develop a gender identity, and that Dr. Ride shouldn’t be remembered merely as a role model for girls or as the first American woman in space. She was a scientist, an astronaut, an educator… a hero.

    Tonight, I will look up to the stars, and remember.


  • 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] https://chat.openai.com/

    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.