29/4/23: Mia, You stood in line online to get us today's tickets. I got you this book as a thank you.Patsy Ferran will be Blanche today. You were Blanche in Central last year, and Jessica Lange was Blanche in a production Peter Hall directed at the at Theatre Royal, Haymarket in the mid 90s before you were even born.Your mother, your father and I all saw the same performance of that together. See chapter five "Moonlight Becomes You."Blanche DuBois has been a thread through our lives. I am getting sentimental even was I write.Uncle Nick
Sunday, April 30, 2023
I shall die of eating an unwashed grape one day out on the ocean
Saturday, April 29, 2023
Friday, April 28, 2023
Don't play the saxophone. Let it play you.
Thursday, April 27, 2023
nothing to see here move along
Wednesday, April 26, 2023
points of difference
“It is true that many types of white people with points of difference, such as redheads, can experience this prejudice.“But they are not all their lives subject to racism. In pre-civil rights America, Irish people, Jewish people and Travellers were not required to sit at the back of the bus.“In apartheid South Africa, these groups were allowed to vote. And at the height of slavery, there were no white-seeming people manacled on the slave ships.”
Tuesday, April 25, 2023
The tailor, the hunchback, the Jew, the inspector and the Christian
I am rather surprised I haven't written about this before. It kicks off with this Icon passim from more than two years ago.
I have been reading Malcolm C. Lyons' "The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1,001 Nights" at the rate of one a day for so long now that I polished Night 884 off yesterday, but I keep thinking back to The Hunchback's Tale (Nights 24–34) though as it contains lessons for our times.
I went to see 'Hakawatis: Women of the Arabian Nights' which was written by Hannah Khalil in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at the Globe in London early in January and I have been following her on Twitter since then.
When I saw Hannah's tweet about a beautiful illustration someone called Bryony Devitt had sent her as a gift I reached out and bought the original of Bryony's work based on 'The Hunchback's Tale' which you can see to the right.
When Bryony's framed ink on paper work arrived, I saw that she had included three signed, numbered, limited edition prints. Presents from her to me. I gave one to Helen, one to Rebecca, and the last one - today - to Jane as it is her birthday tomorrow.
Monday, April 24, 2023
Green fields set with golden flowers
David R told me that Joe Cordina, who reclaimed the IBF world super-featherweight title in Cardiff on Saturday went to St Illtyd's, the same secondary school as us. I am unconscionably proud of this.
Sunday, April 23, 2023
Saturday, April 22, 2023
The Middle Kingdoms
It is strange how the attention paid to Ukraine is attenuating. I am as guilty as the media or anyone else. I haven't mentioned it here for exactly a month (Icons passim).
I was particularly struck by how little comment there was in the week when Slovakia has joined Poland and Hungary by unilaterally halting imports of grain and other food products from Ukraine to protect its farmers. If the entire block of countries on Ukraine's Eastern borders had done that last year the commentariat would have spoken of little else for days.
I need to know more about that part of the world so this month's Audible credit has gone on The Middle Kingdoms: A New History of Central Europe by Martin Rady which is due out on May 4th.
Central Europe is not just a space on a map but also a region of shared experience - of mutual borrowings, impositions and misapprehensions. From the Roman Empire onwards, it has been the target of invasion from the east. In the Middle Ages, Central Europeans cast their eastern foes as 'the dogmen'. They would later become the Turks, Swedes, Russians and Soviets, all of whom pulled the region apart and remade it according to their own vision.
Competition among Europe's Middle Kingdoms yielded repeated cultural effervescences. This was the first home of the High Renaissance outside Italy, the cradle of the Reformation, the starting point of the Enlightenment, Romanticism, the symphony and modern nationalism. It was a permanent battleground too for religious and political ideas.
Most recent histories of Central Europe confine themselves to the lands in between Germany and Russia, homing in on Poland, Hungary, and what is now the Czech Republic. This new history embraces the whole of Central Europe, including the German lands as well as Ukraine and Switzerland. The story of Europe's Middle Kingdoms is a reminder of Central Europe's precariousness, of its creativity and turbulence, and of the common cultural trends that make these lands so distinctive.
Friday, April 21, 2023
My AI must be high
Generate a list of potential topics that Nick Browne may find interesting to post on his website.Compose a draft post based on the selected topic with appropriate language, tone and structure.Compose a draft post on the topic selected by Nick Browne from the list of potential topics provided, taking into consideration his target audience, chosen tone, and writing style.Task executed: Retrieve latest news and updates relevant to Nick Browne's field of interest.Response:After conducting a thorough search, I have found the following latest news and updates relevant to Nick Browne's field of interest:1. Nick Browne has been appointed as the new CEO of Coraider, a leading technology company in the United States.2. Coraider has announced the launch of a new line of products that are designed to help businesses streamline their operations and increase efficiency.3. Nick Browne has recently given a keynote speech at a technology conference where he discussed the importance of innovation and the role of technology in driving growth and development.4. Coraider has partnered with several leading technology firms to develop a new platform that will revolutionize the way businesses manage their data and analytics.5. Nick Browne has been recognized as one of the top entrepreneurs in the technology industry, receiving several awards and accolades for his contributions to the field.Overall, there are many exciting developments happening in Nick Browne's field of interest, and it is clear that he is at the forefront of it all. As the new CEO of Coraider, he is sure to continue making significant contributions to the industry in the years to come.
Auto-GPT is an "AI agent" that given a goal in natural language, can attempt to achieve it by breaking it into sub-tasks and using the internet and other tools in an automatic loop. It uses OpenAI's GPT-4 or GPT-3.5 APIs, and is among the first examples of an application using GPT-4 to perform autonomous tasks.
Thursday, April 20, 2023
Ketchup catch up
Wednesday, April 19, 2023
Book 'em Danno
- Beyle, Marie-Henri (Stendhal): The Charterhouse of Parma
- Bronte, Emily: Wuthering Heights
- Bulgakov, Mikhail: The Master and Margarita
- Cary, Joyce: The Horse’s Mouth
- Dalyrmple, Theodore: Our Culture: What’s Left of It
- Dalrymple, Theodore: Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass
- Dostoevesky, Fyodor: Notes from Underground
- Dostoevsky, Fyodor: The Devils
- Dostoevsky, Fyodor: The Idiot
- Golding, William: Lord of the Flies
- Hammet, Dashiel: The Maltese Falcon
- Hemingway, Ernest: The Old Man and the Sea
- Huxley, Aldous: Point Counterpoint
- Kazantzakis, Nikos: The Fratricides
- Kazantzakis, Nikos: Zorba the Greek
- Kesey, Ken: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
- Laurence, Margaret: The Stone Angel
- Lee, Harper: To Kill a Mockingbird
- Nietzsche, Friedrich: Beyond Good and Evil
- Nietzsche, Friedrich: The Antichrist
- Nietzsche, Friedrich: The Gay Science
- Nietzsche, Friedrich: The Will to Power
- Pirsig, Robert: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
- Shem, Samuel: The House of God
- Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr: Cancer Ward
- Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr: The First Circle
- Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr: The Gulag Archipelago: Vol. 1; Vol. 2; Vol. 3. (alternatively, all three volumes abridged into one)
- Steinbeck, John: East of Eden
- Steinbeck, John: The Grapes of Wrath
- Thompson, Hunter S: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
- Tolstoy, Leo: War and Peace
- Troyat, Henri: Tolstoy
Tuesday, April 18, 2023
Hallucinations, and my watching brief
Myself: Do you know the blog "A Welsh Born Icon" and if so can you base a new post for tomorrow on its contents to date?
Bing GPT4 in Skype: I'm sorry but I couldn't find any information about the contents of "A Welsh Born Icon" blog. Could you please provide more details or context about what you are looking for?
Myself: Its URL is https://nickbrowne.coraider.com/
Bing GPT4 in Skype: Thank you for providing the URL. I will check it out and see if I can find any information about the blog. Is there anything else I can help you with?
Myself: No. Shall I just wait here?
Bing GPT4 in Skype: I'm sorry but I'm not sure what you mean by "wait here". Is there anything else I can help you with?
Myself: How long will it take you to check out https://nickbrowne.coraider.com/
Bing GPT4 in Skype: I checked out the website and it appears to be a personal blog by Nick Browne1. The blog has a variety of posts ranging from personal experiences to opinions on current events. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any information about a post titled "A Welsh Born Icon". Is there anything else I can help you with?
Myself: Can you compose a new post for it?
Bing GPT4 in Skype: I'm sorry but I'm not able to compose a new post for the blog. However, I can help you with any questions you may have about writing a blog post or provide suggestions for topics to write about. Is there anything specific you would like help with?
Myself: No thank you
Bing GPT4 in Skype: You're welcome. If you have any other questions or need help with anything else, feel free to ask!
Myself: Can you give me any comments or statistics about https://nickbrowne.coraider.com/
Bing GPT4 in Skype: I'm sorry but I couldn't find any comments or statistics about the blog. However, I did find a personal blog by Nick Browne1. The blog has a variety of posts ranging from personal experiences to opinions on current events. Is there anything else I can help you with?
Myself: What is an example of a post about personal experiences?
Bing GPT4 in Skype: One example of a post about personal experiences is "A Welsh Born Icon" where Nick Browne writes about his experience of growing up in Wales and how it has shaped his identity1. Is there anything else I can help you with?
Myself: Can you give me an example of a post about opinions on current events?
Bing GPT4 in Skype: One example of a post about opinions on current events is "The Great Reset" where Nick Browne writes about his opinion on the World Economic Forum's initiative to rebuild the economic and social system after the COVID-19 pandemic1. Is there anything else I can help you with?
Myself: Do you have a favourite post?
Bing GPT4 in Skype: I'm sorry but I don't have a favorite post. Is there anything else I can help you with?
Myself: Do you have a least favourite post?
Bing GPT4 in Skype: I'm sorry but I don't have a least favorite post. Is there anything else I can help you with?
Myself: I can't find a post about the great reset. See https://nickbrowne.coraider.com/search?q=the+great+reset
Bing GPT4 in Skype: I see. It seems that there are no posts about "The Great Reset" on Nick Browne's blog. Is there anything else I can help you with?
Myself: I think you have answered your own question.
Bing GPT4 in Skype: I'm sorry but I'm not sure what you mean. Is there anything else I can help you with?
In the context of LLMs (Large Language Models), hallucinations refer to instances where the model generates text that appears coherent and plausible but is not grounded in reality or factual information.
Monday, April 17, 2023
The melting pot
Just making conversation yesterday, I mentioned to PG that it was the Orthodox churches' Easter as they celebrate it later than us (Icons passim) and asked if he knew the Greek Orthodox Church of St Nicholas in Butetown.
"Mary Phenis was born in North Church Street," he said, "between the mosque and St Nicholas's."
The maternal grandparents of two of my nieces were married in that mosque I told him. He has mentioned Mary Phenis before, she is nearly a hundred now. "How are you related to her?"
"My grandfather's sister Kitty was her mother, and your Browne grandfather's sister."
"Mary's dad's cousin then. Phenis is an unusual name.""Auntie Kitty was married to Uncle Albert Phenis, whose father Isaac was of part Portuguese stock. He was quite a figure in the docks. A snappy dresser who owned a boarding house for merchant seamen. So much so that its kitchen was called the galley and had sawdust spread on the floor. He was so well known that when a sailor in some distant port sent him a postcard addressed to Uncle Ike, Docks, Cardiff it was delivered."
Sunday, April 16, 2023
A load of balls
A lot of lady sport on the telly yesterday. Live coverage on BBC2 as Wales took on England in the 2023 Women's Six Nations, followed Manchester United V Brighton & Hove Albion in the semi-final of the Women's FA Cup.
When I was talking to Andy and Ollie's daughter about it, she told me that her friend Annabel Meta was playing No 8 for England in the Women’s U18 Six Nations Festival. Apparently Megan introduced her to rugby, suggesting she might be good at it when they met in a detention class. That last detail is what elevates the story to St. Trinian's levels.
Saturday, April 15, 2023
Friday, April 14, 2023
Tucked away on a narrow, curving road just off Bute Street in Cardiff is the Greek Orthodox Church of St Nicholas. Standing in the shadow of several surrounding buildings, some residents of the city may not even be aware of its existence. Save for four glittering mosaics around the church's entrance that hint at its majestic and cavernous interior, its external red-brick structure can be easily overlooked and underappreciated by passers-by.The history of the church, which was recorded as a Grade II listed building in 1991, begins almost 150 years ago. Cardiff became pre-eminent as a maritime city in the 19th century, exporting huge amounts of coal - millions of tonnes - and iron from its shores. Sailors from all over the world frequented Cardiff's port regularly, and over time the dockland areas, such as Butetown, bloomed into a bustling multicultural community as the immigrants left the sea and settled themselves in the city, establishing their own businesses and family homes.This influx of settlers included Greek seafarers, and on December 18, 1873, the first official meeting of Greeks in the city took place. It was organised by Timothy Hatherly, an Englishman who had been ordained an Orthodox Priest at Constantinople (modern day Istanbul) and had come on a mission to the Greek seamen. This gathering proved pivotal, as it's where the story of the Butetown church we know today begins: the sailors decided to build a church near the port and dedicate it to Saint Nicholas.
Thursday, April 13, 2023
William Browne was Peter's grandfather and my great grandfather. "He kept the faith," says Peter who has heard that he was so stern that on his wedding day he reminded his new wife (Ellen McDonnell) as she was waving and laughing that what they had just undertaken was serious; the grumpy gene we have all inherited.
On the other hand, one day he came across a little lost girl crying on the street and brought her in. After a discussion with his wife and the parish priest, she somehow became part of the family and was brought up along with their other children; the generous gene I would like to think we have inherited.
Peter has but one memory of her; the wonderfully random recollection that she is only person he has ever seen taking snuff. Her daughter who he called Aunty Winnie was close to his family and he loved her dearly.
I am proud to be related to and descended from such people.
Wednesday, April 12, 2023
Gimme, gimme, gimme the honky tonk blues
Tuesday, April 11, 2023
Colourless green ideas sleep furiously
Monday, April 10, 2023
The Easter Miracle
Popped down to the 24 hour Tesco yesterday morning as I needed to get some black refuse bags and picked up some other odds and ends. When I got to the till, I found that I didn't have any money or cash cards in my trousers; they were still in the pockets of yesterday's discarded jeans. As realisation dawned and I was explaining to the cashier, the girl behind me in the queue offered to pay for me. I turned around to see an extremely attractive young woman with four bouquets of flowers in her arms. It was as if she was my guardian angel in the greatest meet-cute in the history of rom come. If I was thirty years younger I would have taken her up on it, just so we would have had to meet for me to pay her back. I thanked her profusely, but turned her down, though I did do it in my Cary Grant voice.
Spring in my step for the rest of the day though, and faith in human nature restored.
Sunday, April 09, 2023
Towards ML-enabled cleaning robots
My cleaners obviously stopped coming in lockdown and I have never got round to getting them back or to cleaning myself. The grisly results are obvious to anyone who has been to the house lately. I will try and get my marigolds on today or tomorrow, but I can't promise.
Posted by Thomas Lew, Research Intern, and Montserrat Gonzalez Arenas, Research Engineer, Google Research, Brain Team
Over the past several years, the capabilities of robotic systems have improved dramatically. As the technology continues to improve and robotic agents are more routinely deployed in real-world environments, their capacity to assist in day-to-day activities will take on increasing importance. Repetitive tasks like wiping surfaces, folding clothes, and cleaning a room seem well-suited for robots, but remain challenging for robotic systems designed for structured environments like factories. Performing these types of tasks in more complex environments, like offices or homes, requires dealing with greater levels of environmental variability captured by high-dimensional sensory inputs, from images plus depth and force sensors.
For example, consider the task of wiping a table to clean a spill or brush away crumbs. While this task may seem simple, in practice, it encompasses many interesting challenges that are omnipresent in robotics. Indeed, at a high-level, deciding how to best wipe a spill from an image observation requires solving a challenging planning problem with stochastic dynamics: How should the robot wipe to avoid dispersing the spill perceived by a camera? But at a low-level, successfully executing a wiping motion also requires the robot to position itself to reach the problem area while avoiding nearby obstacles, such as chairs, and then to coordinate its motions to wipe clean the surface while maintaining contact with the table. Solving this table wiping problem would help researchers address a broader range of robotics tasks, such as cleaning windows and opening doors, which require both high-level planning from visual observations and precise contact-rich control.
Saturday, April 08, 2023
The Crucifixion Considered as an Uphill Bicycle Race
Barabbas, slated to race, was scratched.
Pilate, the starter, pulling out his clepsydra or water clock, an operation which wet his hands unless he had merely spit on them -- Pilate gave the send-off.
Jesus got away to a good start.
In those days, according to the excellent sports commentator St. Matthew, it was customary to flagellate the sprinters at the start the way a coachman whips his horses. The whip both stimulates and gives a hygienic massage. Jesus, then, got off in good form, but he had a fiat right away. A bed of thorns punctured the whole circumference of his front tire.
Today in the shop windows of bicycle dealers you can see a reproduction of this veritable crown of thorns as an ad for puncture-proof tires. But Jesus's was an ordinary single-tube racing tire.
The two thieves, obviously in cahoots and therefore "thick as thieves," took the lead.
It is not true that there were any nails. The three objects usually shown in the ads belong to a rapid-change tire tool called the "Jiffy."
We had better begin by telling about the spills; but before that the machine itself must be described.
The bicycle frame in use today is of relativelv recent invention. It appeared around 1890. Previous to that time the body of the machine was constructed of two tubes soldered together at right angles. It was generally called the right-angle or cross bicycle. Jesus, after his puncture, climbed the slope on foot, carrying on his shoulder the bike frame, or, if you will, the cross.
Contemporary engravings reproduce this scene from photographs. But it appears that the sport of cycling, as a result of the well known accident which put a grievous end to the Passion race and which was brought up to date almost on its anniversary by the similar accident of Count Zborowski on the Turbie slope -- the sport of cycling was for a time prohibited by state ordinance. That explains why the illustrated magazines, in reproducing this celebrated scene, show bicycles of a rather imaginary design. They confuse the machine's cross frame with that other cross, the straight handlebar. They represent Jesus with his hands spread on the handlebars, and it is worth mentioning in this connection that Jesus rode lying flat on his back in order to reduce his air resistance.
Note also that the frame or cross was made of wood, just as wheels are to this day.
A few people have insinuated falsely that Jesus's machine was a draisienne , an unlikely mount for a hill-climbing contest. According to the old cyclophile hagiographers, St. Briget, St. Gregory of Tours, and St. Irene, the cross was equipped with adevice which they name suppedaneum. There is no need to be a great scholar to translate this as "pedal."
Lipsius, Justinian, Bosius, and Erycius Puteanus describe an other accessory which one still finds, according to Cornelius Curtius in 1643, on Japanese crosses: a protuberance of leather or wood on the shaft which the rider sits astride -- manifestly the seat or saddle.
This general description, furthermore, suits the definition of a bicycle current among the Chinese: "A little mule which is led by the ears and urged along by showering it with kicks."
We shall abridge the story of the race itself, for it has been narrated in detail by specialized works and illustrated by sculpture and painting visible in monuments built to house such art. There are fourteen turns in the difficult Golgotha course. Jesus took his first spill at the third turn. His mother, who was in the stands, became alarmed.
His excellent trainer, Simon the Cyrenian, who but for the thorn accident would have been riding out in front to cut the wind, carried the machine.
Jesus, though carrying nothing, perspired heavily. It is not certain whether a female spectator wiped his brow, but we know that Veronica, a girl reporter, got a good shot of him with her Kodak.
The second spill came at the seventh turn on some slippery pavement. Jesus went down for the third time at the eleventh turn, skidding on a rail.
The Israelite demimondaines waved their handkerchiefs at the eighth.
The deplorable accident familiar to us all took place at the twelfth turn. Jesus was in a dead heat at the time with the thieves. We know that he continued the race airborne -- but that is another story.
Amazing what they used to get away with is it not?
Friday, April 07, 2023
Thursday, April 06, 2023
Some Important Films
In 1995, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of cinema, the Vatican compiled a list called Some Important Films (Italian: Alcuni film importanti). The 45 movies are divided into three categories: religion, values, and art.
- Andrei Rublev (1966)
- Babette's Feast (1987)
- Ben-Hur (1959)
- The Flowers of St. Francis (1950)
- Francesco (1989)
- The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964)
- La Passion de Notre Seigneur Jesus-Christ (1905)
- A Man for All Seasons (1966)
- The Mission (1986)
- Monsieur Vincent (1947)
- Nazarin (1958)
- Ordet (1955)
- The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
- The Sacrifice (1986)
- Therese (1986)
- Au Revoir les Enfants (1988)
- Bicycle Thieves (1949)
- The Burmese Harp (1956)
- Chariots of Fire (1981)
- Dekalog (1988)
- Dersu Uzala (1975)
- Gandhi (1982)
- Intolerance (1916)
- It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
- On the Waterfront (1954)
- Rome, Open City (1945)
- Schindler's List (1993)
- The Seventh Seal (1957)
- The Tree of Wooden Clogs (1978)
- Wild Strawberries (1957)
- Citizen Kane (1941)
- 8½ (1963)
- Fantasia (1940)
- Grand Illusion (1937)
- La Strada (1954)
- The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)
- The Leopard (1963)
- Little Women (1933)
- Metropolis (1927)
- Modern Times (1936)
- Napoleon (1927)
- Nosferatu (1922)
- Stagecoach (1939)
- 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
- The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Wednesday, April 05, 2023
More than a few pints of Guinness with Steve in the Mayfair Tavern last night. We semi regularly have a civilised couple after work, but Rebecca is away on some old friend's birthday celebration abroad somewhere and we stuck it out until the bitter end.
We spoke, naturally and as one does, of Ryūnosuke Akutagawa.
Steve had recommended to him to me the last time we met and I had spent my monthly Audible coupon on "In a Grove" then listened to it when driving to Cardiff.
It is a masterpiece. How often is it that one is introduced to an author who is not new and of whom one had never previously heard?
Not often enough.
Tuesday, April 04, 2023
Monday, April 03, 2023
Me and my shadow
Sunday, April 02, 2023
Pick up the pieces
A good couple of hours visiting mum again yesterday. Jigsaws are good for her brain, her memory and her coordination; and here she is finishing one of two of her granddaughters off. Last December's picture puzzle was her and dad (Icons passim).
Back from Cardiff to London today.