Discovered an impressive bit of half-assed work in our plumbing today: pipes fitted with shutoff valves that are physically blocked from operating by the *wall*.

Takes some talent to set things up this way.

The late 1940s were truly a wild time, economically: two men summonsed in March 1947 for "wasting electric current" (leaving a single lightbulb on overnight, meaning ... half a kWh each?)

Today's experiment: barleyani. Biryani with pearl barley instead of rice. Actually... not too bad?

vital update: the Green Party has rebranded, changing its preferred colour from "green" to "a bit more green".

Charles Babbage looks ahead from 1864 to foresee most of the discussions about chatGPT.

Read a novel yesterday explicitly set in 2020 & noting the context of the pandemic, and thinking about how rare it is.

Apropos of which, the foreword to a 1921 novel:

"This would make it rather difficult to know what to do with the graves of our dead."

Today's legislative footnote: in 1808, Parliament passed an Act explicitly allowing the Postmaster General to open some letters that could not be delivered to Hamburg, because there was a legal question about whether or not they were actually allowed to do so in order to return it to the sender

(s. 11 eventually realises that this problem might happen again so hastily generalises the solution to other future returned mail)

Today's great legislative discovery: the Winfrith Heath Act 1957.

The Atomic Energy Authority decided to build a new research reactor, and found an empty bit of land in Dorset. Planning permission, tick. Council support, tick. Local consultation, tick.

Unfortunately, also, discovery that someone unknown may potentially hold "the right to graze three cattle and the right of common and turbary" over the site, tick.

absolutely delighted by the chatGPT approach to travel planning

a) identify you cannot drive from Inverness to Bergen, and will need a ferry
b) admit there is not a direct ferry but you can go via somewhere else
c) when pressed, conclude this involves taking a ferry to Orkney, the bus back (!), and then flying direct.

On the other hand, credit where it's due: it has generated a perfectly functioning python script to do a task I was contemplating (identifying regnal years for the confusingly dated Acts), in about twenty minutes - fixing the formatting of the test data took longer...

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Asking "with sources" gives the same first response but with what seems to be a completely fabricated quote from a non-existent article. Ah, joy.

I mean, none of this is remotely surprising given what we've all learned over the past month, but it's sobering to see the nonsense-generator at work.

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playing with chatGPT today (know thy enemy...) and it is very ... something ... that it has a little "regenerate response" button - if you did not like the first set of facts, you can have some more!

For some reason I'm sticking with Brooks as a test-case: all four of these get the WWI paragraph correct, but then confidently surrounds it with a fabulated pre- and post- war career.

Oddly some points keep recurring (born Worcs, photographed Gandhi) - no idea why it fixed on these.

Apropos of Red Plenty, it is a delightful book and completely recommended. This passage has lived rent-free in my head for the past decade:

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Turns out if you idly flatten out foil wrappers, you can reuse them on things

(an oatcake)

Having said that I plugged in one of my own articles, and I am not wildly sold on the ability of the public tools to distinguish AI-generated content from "human-written in neutral style".

Unless there's something no-one told me until now. Hell of a way to find out...

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Looking into it a bit more, the first user also "heavily expanded" a couple of dozen mainspace articles. Is any of this true? Who knows!

It is rather telling that anything about a place sounds like it was written by a tourist site or an estate agent, though.

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A detail the author didn't mention, but a similar thought: my goodness, looks how perfect all those teeth are. There's something that stands out.

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