(Temporary?) Change of Address

For the time being, new Sore Eyes content can be found at http://blog.thebeard.org.

At some point old content hosted here might be moving over there, or that content might be moved over here.

(I realise I should have posted about this weeks ago. More on that as my plans for my web presence evolve.)

A blurry image…

Ted Chiang, writing in the New Yorker (New Yorker link, Archive.org link) finds a neat analogy for what ChatGPT does with the information it was trained on:

Think of ChatGPT as a blurry jpeg of all the text on the Web. It retains much of the information on the Web, in the same way that a jpeg retains much of the information of a higher-resolution image, but, if you’re looking for an exact sequence of bits, you won’t find it; all you will ever get is an approximation. But, because the approximation is presented in the form of grammatical text, which ChatGPT excels at creating, it’s usually acceptable. You’re still looking at a blurry jpeg, but the blurriness occurs in a way that doesn’t make the picture as a whole look less sharp.

Lossy JPEGs served the World Wide Web well for the first decade or so of its’ existence, but nobody should mistake them for the original images. And yet almost everyone does precisely that. They’re good enough for most practical purposes, so long as they’re not littered with compression artefacts.

[Via MetaFilter]

The Billion-Dollar Book of the Dead

A neat little slice of science fiction from Robin Sloan, published in MIT Technology Review: Elyse Flayme and the final flood.

Molly Khan had written six books in as many years, starting with Elyse Flayme and the Ice Queen, surprise best seller, first in the series that became the heir—at last—to Potter. Even better, this series meant something, because the crisis that faced Molly’s mythic world of Arrenia was a clear parable for climate change. The books were urgent and serious, but also fun and charming and, as Molly’s characters grew up, not a little bit sexy. They were broccoli fried in bacon fat.


Molly’s seventh book would conclude the series. There we were, proud publishers, along with our counterparts at the streaming service: perched, poised, ready to proceed into the final stage of this billion-dollar project. […]

[Via the author]

The Peripheral

I’ve not read William Gibson’s source novel, but after seeing the first two episodes I can safely say that The Peripheral on Amazon Prime looks right up my street.

I’ll certainly give them the first season to see if the mix of high technology, alternative time lines and rich, powerful people from the future with their own motivations for what they’re doing continues to develop in an interesting direction.

Could end well, could go off the rails the way Nolan and Joy’s stewardship of the TV version of Westworld did. I’m pretty sure it’ll be an intriguing ride either way.

A long, slow death

Laurie Penny, from the Conservative Party conference a few weeks ago (that is to say, before the wheels fell off).

The unfortunate Toby Young, a living monument to the English Art of failing upwards, is on one of their panels, and seems distressed to be the most liberal person here by far, making an asinine but apparently genuine argument for academic freedom alongside some of the most racist speeches I’ve heard that weren’t improvised by thugs on a night bus. At one point, an old man next to me in the audience genuinely finds it necessary to comment that are “rather too many black players in Premier League football”. He turns out to be a former government minister.

What are the chances that we’ll see Boris Johnson back in 10 Downing Street in a week’s time?

(If the Tory membership were going to be given a vote, that’d be the way to bet.)

[Via Ongoing]

A new double act?

If only Peter Falk was still around to play his part in “I HEAR THE BLUES A-KILLIN’ (or: Frasier Meets Columbo)”:

How can they be planning to do more episodes of Frasier without Niles being right there alongside his brother? What are they thinking

[Via MetaFilter]

Frasier returns

In a perfect world, this would be the Frasier sequel coming to Paramount+ for at least one season.

I’d like to imagine the returning show will live up to the reputation it earned back in the day when I used to enjoy it on Friday nights on Channel 4. The original show got lucky to have such a strong supporting cast – especially David Hyde Pierce’s portrayal of Niles Crane – to distract us from Frasier Crane occasionally when necessary. We can hope, but I’m not sure lightning will strike twice.

[Via [MetaFilter](https://www.metafilter.com/196730/but-what-about-Niles#8304939)]


By some margin my favourite read this weekend: Shadows on maps are getting a lot more exciting, and here’s why

As cartographers, we want to make beautiful maps that grab our readers’ attention. Sometimes we wish our maps could jump out of the screen or off the page, and with a recent trend in cartography we’re starting to see more and more maps that seem to do just that. […]

Fun to think about using maps to plot non-geographic data like income distribution.

For the record, I want a copy of David Garcia’s Hundred Largest Islands of the World poster1 for my wall.

[Via Sentiers #236]

  1. I’m aware of the claims of Australia to a place on that poster, but for my money being omitted from a list like this is part of the price you pay for being a (sparsely-populated) continent. 

My hero

My hero.

[Via @pnh]