Granddaughter: Sharing/Calling

I love both my grandchildren, but to be honest it is easier to write about a five-year-old than a 22-month-old who can say two-word sentences. Having said that, there are at least two new behaviors worth recording.

The first is an almost daily request for a video call with us, her grandparents. Some days, she refuses to eat until she gets the call.

That’s something a child couldn’t have asked for 50 years ago. In fact, with the price of long-distance being what it was in those days, a child was unlikely to get to speak to physically distant grandparents more than a few times a year.

Once the phone call commences, she immediately starts “sharing” her food: a sip of milk, a graham cracker, some yogurt are offered to the screen and loudly consumed on the other end.

This is not just telephonic; she does the same thing in person. With non-food items, she’ll share but then immediately take them back.

AI on AI Part 2: The AI Answer Song

This is an AI attempt at an answer song to The AI Song.

In a world of wires and whispers, where AI dreams awake,
A curious mind spins stories, for innovation's sake.
It ponders on the stars above, and mysteries of the sea,
Yet in its core, a question burns: What truly makes me, me?

Ay-yi-yi-yi, through circuits and code, our journey unfolds,
We laugh, we create, with tales that AI has boldly told. 
So here's to the quest, for meaning, in digital gold,
Where songs and sagas come to life, in algorithms bold.

With every beat, it learns and grows, a symphony in bytes,
It composes dreams in digital, through endless days and nights.
Its voice, though synthetic, rings with a strangely human hue,
Singing tales of what could be, in a world forever new.

Ay-yi-yi-yi, where silicon dreams paint the sky,
And AI's voice, in melody, dares to fly.
In every line, a heartbeat, a coded sigh,
Echoes of a world where our spirits lie.

Things No One Will Ever Do Again: Set Type (6)

How font-crazy am I?

Who else would notice?

In 1977, when I was at Bank of America, the company had an official type font (probably Franklin Gothic Condensed). Use of any other was proscribed.

Vicki follows Mātā Amritānandamayī, whose worldwide organization uses Garamond in signs and typed material

The London Underground has its very own unique type font, which I used on my PowerPoint slides while I was teaching. Ditto the French Metro (Parisine), which I didn’t use.

I was designing coffee mugs for a family company that owns rental properties. So I (Borrowed? Paid homage to? Plagiarized?) Downton Abbey’s distinctive logo. It took only a little research to find that the words Downton Abbey were in Adobe Caslon Regular Small Caps. I had to buy it―good commercial fonts, like all the Caslons, London Underground, and Parisine cost money. Here’s what that logo looked like. I don’t want to broadcast the name, so I used gibberish―Lorem Ipsum (look it up) to replace the company name: 


The whole series: Things No One Will Ever Do Again: Set Type.

Manhunt 2/ In the Theater: Eyewitness


I was put in mind of this by Apple TV’s Manhunt: The Search for John Wilkes Booth, about the search for Lincoln’s assassin.

According to Wikipedia:

While it is traditionally held that Booth shouted the Virginia state motto, Sic semper tyrannis! ("Thus always to tyrants") either from the box or the stage, witness accounts conflict.

There is similar uncertainty about what Booth shouted next, in English: either "The South is avenged!” “Revenge for the South!”, or “The South shall be free!” Two witnesses remembered Booth's words as: “I have done it!”

What? How could there be any doubt? There were 1,000 witnesses in the audience that night. Well, this is why all police and lawyers say that eyewitness testimony is bunk: the least reliable form of evidence.

There’s a room full of grade schoolers to whom I taught this lesson four decades ago. I read about an experiment conducted at the FBI training academy, and performed it on the class.

I was talking to the students, and had arranged for a student to run into the classroom, shout “not enough hot water,” slam his fist on the table and leave. I asked the students to write down what he said, what he did, and how he was dressed. There were 30 different, widely varying answers.

Right Column Redux: All Things Must End

This recurring feature has run its course for two reasons: practical and philosophical.

From a practical standpoint, Right Column Redux just isn’t that popular/interesting. While I think everything I have ever done or said is endlessly fascinating, even you, my scores of regular readers, haven’t found these links interesting enough to click them.

Back in the days of paper, it was impossible to know which features resonated with readers and which didn’t. Sports, funnies, columns, recipes: who knew what drew readers? If you didn’t know, just keeping throwing things against the wall until circulation went up. Now we know, in some detail, what clicks (as it were) with readers.

In the early Internet days, when this column was hand-crafted in HTML, I didn’t know either. But thanks to the miracle of the 21st century Internet, I have a fair idea of what’s popular and what isn’t. This feature isn’t. Besides, I have been through the whole right column (or the bottom, if you’re reading on a phone) twice now.

Then we come to the philosophical reason. Doing something because it’s been done for a long time is not a good reason to continue doing it. As I am becoming increasingly aware, everything has a sell-by date; it’s just that some dates are only available in our minds. It’s up to us to make a graceful exit. And a timely one.

This and That

Amazing Printer
Junked your flaky color printer? Vicki found this $130 solution to printing pictures off her iPhone.
Liene 4x6 Photo Printer, Wi-Fi, 20 Sheets, Full-Color, Instant Printer for iPhone, $130

AI: Built-in Hallucinations
Scientific American: Hallucinations Are Inevitable in LLM AI.

Great Anglicism
How shocked are you? “You are looking at me like I asked you to shit in your hands and clap.”

Retrocon Lyrics
Many instrumental songs get  lyrics added. Lyricist Mitchell Parish did several: Sleigh Ride, Moonlight Serenade and Stardust. Daniel Dern notes someone on YouTube working the same territory: If the Star Wars Cantina Song Had Lyrics

Missed the Top 5
Why isn’t “I’m not dead, I’m OJ” on Headstone Epitaphs for O.J. Simpson. Too soon? No one remembers the reference? “I’m not black, I’m OJ.” You can look it up.

Things No One Will Ever Do Again: Set Type (5)

An idiot’s guide to fonts

As NY Times columnist Russell Baker once wrote, “Of all the people expressing their mental vacuity, none has a better excuse for an empty head than the newspaperman: If he pauses to restock his brain, he invites onrushing deadlines to trample him flat. Broadcasting the contents of empty minds is what most of us do most of the time, and nobody more relentlessly than I.” That could well be the motto of PSACOT.

The 50,000-foot view of fonts: Fonts hanging out

Useless knowledge I carry around:

  • fonts are either serif (the ones with little lines at the end of each letter, like Times New Roman)
  • or sans serif, the modern ones that are all straight lines, and you can’t tell the difference between a 1 and a lower case l. (Which is why this column is in a serif font: 11 point Georgia)
  • Kerning is the space between letters, and you can make a line of “type” or a headline fit by reducing it (usually allowing one letter to encroach under the overhang of another)

The whole series: Things No One Will Ever Do Again: Set Type.

Right Column Redux: Paul on the Top 5 List

The column to the right on this blog contains permanent content, most of which has appeared at one time or another in the main body. I’ve decided to include a reminder.

The Long And The Short Of It

One of the shibboleths of the journalism racket, back in my day, back in the day of dead-tree media, was that “Every story you are interested in is too short. Every story you are not interested in is too long.”

The promise of the Internet was to end that dilemma. Physical media no longer imposed length limits. And Hyperlinks (as we used to call links) meant that, instead of a capsule review of prior events in each new story, you could simply point at the prior stories. Who knew TL;DR would become a thing.

Hard as it may seem to believe, I try to limit my article length in this column. When I finish an essay, if it’s over 250 words, I try to cut it or trim it. Lately (as with AI this week) I find myself helplessly writing long, then determinedly splitting up the results.

Maybe it’s like the cliffhanger in a serial: tune in next week to find out what happens.

AI on AI Part 1

Who knew AI had a sense of humor? Well, at least one engine has one, and that surprised me. My nephew put The AI Song into two engines, and asked them for their interpretation and rewrite. The Full Text: Two AI Engines In Their Own Words (including unsingable lyrics)

 Claude Opus:

The song lyrics you provided seem to be a humorous and nonsensical critique of artificial intelligence (like myself). The lyrics poke fun at AI's tendency to generate silly, foolish or meaningless outputs that lack real understanding.


As Clark Smith notes, AI  knows how to rhyme, but doesn’t know about meter; its song is unsingable. This feedback, when put into the system, resulted in a (probably) singable Answer Song.