AI generated images are getting better!

Last year I posted about creating AI art. The website I mentioned, NightCafe, is still around and has added interesting new features, but the images it generates still primarily lean to the abstract side. It doesn’t generate much I would consider of very practical use beyond having fun.

But just a few weeks ago, OpenAI announced DALL-E 2, and the images it generates are much more mind-blowing and exciting. Here’s a brief overview of the tech from Two Minute Papers:

What a time to be alive!

Granted, the examples shown in the video and on OpenAI’s website are cherrypicked. There are some other examples out there that look a bit more wonky. It still doesn’t seem to be great with human faces, for example, or things requiring a lot of finer details, and it’s awful with generating text in images.

Here’s another video describing the tech:

Despite its weaknesses, it still looks enormously more useful, fun, and exciting than the AI image generators I looked at in that post from last year. I of course added my name to the waitlist. I’d love to experiment with it, but I probably won’t get access anytime soon. But DALL-E 2 definitely looks like something I’d be more than willing to pay for (assuming the price isn’t overly expensive). I can at least imagine creating useful images to accompany blog posts, short stories, book or album covers, or something.

Amazing stuff!

ETA: Also check out this mind-blowing art book of 1,000 robot paintings by DALL-E 2 in various styles: 1111101000 Robots

Random thoughts on Elon Musk buying Twitter

Some Twitter history

I joined Twitter long ago, in 2007, when it was only about 1.5 years old. You may remember reading about it when I blogged about it long ago. (It was on an earlier non-WordPress version of this blog, which was just called “Blather” rather than “The New Blather”.1) So I have seen the Twitter tides ebb and flow. I remember when Leo Laporte had the most Twitter followers, with an astounding 32,000 of them, wow! Ah, simpler days.

Tweets were far more inane then. There were no hashtags, you couldn’t mention someone, “@” and “#” did nothing, no replies or retweets or quote tweets. You couldn’t post pictures, it was text only. You couldn’t even edit tweets to fix typos. (Oh, wait, you still can’t do that.) You also couldn’t “like” a tweet; instead you could “favorite” it with a star icon, which I would still prefer over the heart.2 It was a big deal when random celebrities or political figures would join.

The tweet prompt used to be “What are you doing?” and you’d simply log what you were up to, where you were at the time, or some other short random thought, just so others could keep up with what was going on with you. It was a fun way to peer into the lives of strangers with similar interests. Smartphones were just beginning to hit the market then; they were hardly ubiquitous, and society was not yet inundated with social media platforms.

I primarily used Twitter for micro-journaling. But as Twitter’s atmosphere drifted from inanity to people having conversations and debates, posting “threads”, brands making announcements and celebrities joining in the fun, I tweeted less and less. I’m just not so interested in the conversational side of things. After 14.5 years on the platform, I’ve collected only 264 followers. Not many. And when I do tweet, it’s usually something still pretty inane. I really don’t have quality content, at least not by most people’s standards. (Unlike this amazing blog!)

Still, it’s generally my go-to social network, mostly because of the accounts I follow. I also like that I can still view my feed in the order things were tweeted instead of being subjugated to some stupid algorithm that chooses what I get to see for me, as Facebook mandates. Granted, Twitter has shadowbanned people, making their tweets mysteriously not show up on my feed, but it’s still better than Facebook. Even if I don’t tweet anything, I usually scroll through my feed anywhere from once to five times a day.

Censorship, free speech, and propaganda

Unfortunately Twitter (like Facebook and YouTube) has a long history of unjustified censorship, the most aggravating among conservatives perhaps being the banning of then president Donald Trump and the censorship of the Hunter Biden laptop story just before the last presidential election. Meanwhile they’ve boosted stories confirming there was definitely no widespread election fraud in the last presidential election, and putting warnings about Covid-19 “misinformation” on tweets linking to certain articles that questioned the government’s position on the virus and the effectivenss of vaccines.

To me, the most grievous censorship as been the suspension of accounts that deny that men can be women (or vice versa) just by saying so and dressing the part, such as the suspension of the Babylon Bee’s account when they tweeted a link to their satirical article: The Babylon Bee’s Man Of The Year Is Rachel Levine. This sort of censorship is the most grievous to me because it punishes a reflection of objective truth (that Levine is not a woman). Everybody knows this truth, yet the Twitter censors partake in a knowing willful denial of it for the sake of some idealized reality (in which everyone just pretends to not know), and the censors actively punish those who do not abide by this objective lie.

This sort of censorship (not to mention all the similar unjustices outside of Twitter surrounding this issue, such as men clobbering women in womens’ sports) is the seed of every dystopian horror, where everyone knows the truth but is forbidden to acknowledge it. The idea that censorship and other methods of idealogical enforcement will somehow just make people slowly and silently change their beliefs about such basic and obvious facts of life as the differences between men and women is the height of arrogance and stupidity. You are just setting up a [figurative] bomb to explode. (Granted, I think some people know that and, for them, that’s the whole point.) It is literally a demonic force.

Go somewhere else?

There are Twitter alternatives, of course. Gab, Parler, and Gettr perhaps being the most prominent, and now Trump’s Truth Social3. They each have their various strengths and weaknesses, but their greatest weakness is that there’s just nobody on them, other than political refugees. And while I don’t mind some political debates and memes in my feed, it’s not the only thing I want to see. I want to see a scientist tweet about his latest book or podcast appearance, or an artist about her latest artwork, or a gamedev about his current programming progress, and those sorts of people are, for whatever reason, still largely only on Twitter4.

Enter Elon Musk

That Elon Musk would buy Twitter is not something I would have ever predicted. I don’t know much about his politics or his business views, and I don’t want a Tesla (not that I could even come close to affording one if I did).

But his views on free speech definitely sound like something Twitter could use. He tweeted:

Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated.

He also tweeted:

By “free speech”, I simply mean that which matches the law.

I am against censorship that goes far beyond the law.

If people want less free speech, they will ask government to pass laws to that effect.

Therefore, going beyond the law is contrary to the will of the people.

Regarding the censorship of the Hunter Biden laptop story, he recently tweeted:

Suspending the Twitter account of a major news organization for publishing a truthful story was obviously incredibly inappropriate

These sentiments definitely get a thumbs up from me.

Future predictions

I did not at all think Musk would ever actually buy Twitter, so what do I know? I predict one of three possibilities:

  1. There’s some contention and debate for a while, but ultimately not much changes for the foreseeable future, except hopefully less unjustified political censorship and annoying propaganda.
  2. Twitter becomes even more popular, with Elon Musk revitalizing the platform with positive features and changes.
  3. Twitter becomes less popular and gradually eats through its funding until it’s sold off again or just withers and dies.

I think that covers all the possibilities, so how can I be wrong? Since I have absolutely no idea what will ultimately happen, any of these outcomes would not surprise me.

The third possibility would really stink. Despite Musk’s good intentions, I’m not sure there’s very much money to be made in Twitter, at least not in its current state. I think much of its funding in past years has been for the purposes of its censorship and propaganda. And although I scroll through my feed quite a bit, I’m not sure there’s content on there I’d be willing to pay for. How much more money is Musk willing to sink into this business venture if needed?

Who knows! But it’s definitely an interesting development. We’ll see what happens!

New Monkey Island game coming soon!

The original Monkey Island, a classic point-and-click adventure game, was released in 1990, but I didn’t play it myself until 1997 when I was 11 or 12 years old. It was part of the LucasArts Archive Volume III, a box set of classic LucasArts games rereleased on CD-ROM. Ah, the good old days when computer games came in oversized boxes and included instruction manuals and registration postcards. Downloading games is surely convenient, but there was some magic to browsing a store shelf full of games, gazing at the latest greatest computer graphics in the screenshots on the back, and being able to carry home something tangible. Our family had just bought our first Windows computer a year or so before (Windows 95), and I can still remember the excitement of that box of adventure games:1

That box included both the original game, The Secret of Monkey Island, and the sequel released a year later, Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge.

I loved those games. Ridiculous cartoony humor, fun little adventure story, and a bunch of engaging story puzzles.

But the second game ended on a really weird note, teasing yet another game in the series. But before that game was created, the game’s creator, Ron Gilbert, left LucasArts to co-found Humongous Entertainment, which also made point-and-click adventure games for younger children, such as Putt-Putt Saves the Zoo (which my younger sister used to play constantly).

With Gilbert gone, LucasArts went ahead and made another Monkey Island game anyway, The Curse of Monkey Island, released in 1997. I probably bought it in 98 or 99, after I beat the first two games.

This installment introduced a more cartoony look (the first two games featured pixel art) and full-cast voice acting. It was fun, but didn’t really answer the questions left by the previous game or continue its story, instead telling its own story.

This happened again when LucasArts put out a fourth installment, Esape from Monkey Island in 2000, around the time I was heading off to high school. This installment introduced 3D graphics with 2D backgrounds, which look rather primitive by today standards, but at the time it was quite a fancy updgrade.

I remember being so excited for the game that I would dream about it. Unfortunately, I was not so impressed with it. The story was just weird, the puzzles were awful, the interface and controls felt clunky, and the whole thing just didn’t feel very polished. In fact, I never even finished the game. I grew bored and didn’t even bother to look up puzzle solutions.

Nine years later, in 2009, a year after I had graduated from college with a scarred mind and broken dreams, Telltale Games licensed the Monkey Island IP from LucasArts and released Tales of Monkey Island. It was 3D again, with some better graphics but still a very simple and cartoony design, and was released in monthly installments (a model Telltale Games tried to make work, and it seemed to for a while, but they ultimately went out of business2).

While this new installment was definitely more polished than the last, I still thought it grew a bit boring. I confess, I never finished this one either.

Around this time, the original two games were “remastered” and rereleased with better graphics and voice acting.

So, three Monkey Island games released after Monkey Island 2. But without the original creator at the helm, none of them felt quite “official”, and the strange end of that second game remains an unanswered enigma.

Disney bought LucasArts when they bought their parent company, Lucasfilms (primarily so they could ruin Star Wars by making sequels that made no sense), and LucasArts turned into Lucasfilm Games. As far as I can tell, they now mostly just handle licensing IP to other developers.

One of those developers is none other than Ron Gilbert, who is now finally able to finish the Monkey Island story as he intended all those years ago. Return to Monkey Island was just recently announced:

I’m definitely looking forward to it and crossing my fingers that the questions left by the second game might finally be answered. (Though I’ll probably need to replay those first two games to refresh my memory.)

Random thoughts on Gödel

Last year I blogged about fiction books I wanted to read that year. I only ended up reading three of them. I finished reading War and Peace, which was very long but very good, Stands a Shadow by Col Buchanan, and The Vindication of Man by John C. Wright. Point is, I ultimately didn’t read that much fiction, but read more non-fiction instead.

I’ll probably continue reading more non-fiction than fiction this year as well; there just seem to be more non-fiction books capturing my interest.

I recently finished reading Journey to the Edge of Reason : The Life of Kurt Gödel by Stephen Budiansky. It’s short, less than 300 pages, but provides a very good overview of his life and important mathematical contributions. I wouldn’t have minded if it went deeper into the math, but that’s something I can keep exploring on my own.

A good explanation of Gödel’s most famous contribution, his Incompleteness Theorem, can be found at the 15:16 mark of this YouTube video, though while the video makes the main idea understandable, it still glosses over the finer details of the proof that make it definitive.

To quote page 241 of the book:

Both of Incompleteness Theorems proved that no finite process of inference from axioms within a well-defined system can capture of all mathematics. But that, Gödel pointed out, leads to an interesting either-or choice: either the human mind can perceive evident axioms of mathematics that can never be reduced to a finite rule — which means the human mind “infinitely surpasses the powers of any finite machine” — or there exist problems that are not merely undecidable within a specific formal system, but that are “absolutely” undecidable.

Both choices point to a conclusion “decidedly opposed to materialistic philosophy,” Gödel observed. If the mind is not a machine, then the human spirit cannot be reduced to the mechanistic operation of the brain, with its finite collection of working parts consisting of neurons and their interconnections. If, however, the mind is nothing but a calculating machine, then it is subject to the limitations of the Incompleteness Theorem, which leads to the thorny fact that numbers possess at least some properties that are beyond the power of the human mind to establish: “So this alternative seems to imply that mathematical objects and facts (or at least something in them) exist objectively and independently of our mental acts and decisions, that is to say some form or other of Platonism or ‘realism’ as to the mathematical objects.”

Of course, none of this should be mind-blowing to anyone who already believes in God and has already rejected the notion of materialism, but I still find it thought-provoking. As to whether or not the human brain is nothing but a calculating machine, I don’t know. But even if it were, it would not be inconsistent with religious belief, as it would still point to metaphysical truths beyond itself. (This also states nothing about consciousness or the nature of Free Will. Is Free Will born from a necessary limitation of the Incompleteness Theorem?)

While Gödel was not open about whatever he believed regarding God (especially in the more atheistic-leaning circles in which he worked), he did write a letter revealing he certainly believed in an afterlife (from page 267-268):

You pose in your last letter the momentous question, whether I believe we shall meet in the hereafter. About that I can only say the following: If the world is constructed rationally and has a meaning, then that must be so. For what kind of a sense would there be in bringing forth a creature (man), who has such a broad field of possibilities of his own development and of relationships, and then not allow him to achieve 1/1000 of it. That would be approximately as if someone laid the foundations for a house with much effort and expenditure of money, then let everything go to ruin again. Does one have a reason to assume that the world is set up rationally? I believe so. For it is certainly not chaotic and arbitrary, but rather, as science shows, the greatest regularity and order reign in everything. . . . So, it follows directly that our earthly existence, since it in and of itself has at most a very dubious meaning, can only be a means to an end for another existence.

This of course to me echoes C.S. Lewis’s famous quote: “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

That said, Gödel seems to not have been fond of organized religion. He also says, “… according to Catholic dogma omnibenevolent God created most human beings exclusively for the purpose of sending them to Hell for all eternity.” This is, of course, completely wrong; he obviously spent no time looking for an honest understanding of Catholic dogma.

Gödel was also plagued with mental disorders. He suffered from hypochondria, obsessive-compulsiveness, and harsh periods of maniacal fear and paranoia. While it may be tempting to regard these mental instabilities as an unfortunately side effect of his brilliant mathetical logician’s mind, as the contrast seems starkly ironic, I believe they are more likely unrelated. It would seem more likely to me that his mental disorders arose from emotional overreactions in his assessment of various perceptions. That is, assessing the meaning of a troubled stomach, for instance, has nothing to do with logic, so being a genius logician is perfectly compatible with overreacting to such a thing. He probably would have been able to received better psychological treatment had he been born decades later. Also, if he had been more open to the implications of the teachings of religion, he may have been less inclined to obsess over his social status and whether or not he “achieved” anything, another source of excessive worry and doubt for him.

Overall, it was a very interesting biography, and I would definitely like to explore more of his work and better understand his theorems, especially in how they apply to computer science and AI. Recommended to anyone with similar interests!

Trailer for Jurassic World: Dominion released!

The trailer for the final installment of the Jurassic World trilogy was recently released!

The film at long last reunites the characters Alan Grant, Ellie Sattler, and Ian Malcolm for the first time since the original Jurassic Park film as they join Owen Grady, Claire Dearing, and Maisie Lockwood in a game of seeing how close they can get to dinosaurs without being eaten. (The trick is to always have children by your side, because dinosaurs never eat children.)

Hopefully evil mad scientist Dr. Henry Wu will get his comeuppance and suffer a grisly dino death.

The film is set to be released on June 10, 2022; audiences are advised to watch it in 3D for the best experience. I hope they will also release it on Blu-ray 3D as well, as I already have Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom on Blu-ray 3D, and I would like my collection to be complete. (Studios are sadly reluctant to release films on Blu-ray 3D in the USA anymore, it’s really awful. Woe, is me!)

New album “Moonwish” released!

I recently released my third album, Moonwish!

The album is now available on Bandcamp, AmazonSpotify, and YouTube!1

9 tracks about 50 minutes long. The cover features an image of the 2017 solar eclipse, though I tried spicing it up with some color and texture. I think it came out OK, if still a bit amateurish.

I’m distributing it digitally with DistroKid, which charges about $20 a year, but does not charge fees for royalties earned. Still, in the five years I’ve paid them, I’ve only made about $35 in return, so still a net loss (and that’s before taxes). But that’s with only two albums (A Dream Half Lost and Storybook Overture). As DistroKid does not charge more for each new release, I really need to release more stuff so that it will at least pay for itself.

I still hope to produce some music animation videos for YouTube for some of the album’s tracks, particularly Second Star to the RightSomewhere Far Away, and Star of Wonder. I’d also like to create a video that features the entire album.


On a side note, I also haven’t updated my stagnant Patreon for a long while. All of my patrons dumped me for not delivering, save one single patron who must be a saint. But I was composing about two new tracks a month, so now I owe around 80-something tracks for all the months I collected tips and did not deliver anything. So I still plan to deliver all those tracks! But it will likely take a while. Other than delivering those tracks, I doubt I’ll keep using Patreon; I just don’t seem to be able to stick to a monthly schedule. (Actually, I think there’s a newer option now where you can just deliver stuff when you can, which I guess I could try, but it’s probably still not really worth the effort for my niche audience. Better to focus on TuneSage.)

My grandmother passed away

Sadly, my last surviving grandparent died on Monday. She had been suffering with dementia.

Her brother, my Great-uncle Charles, also passed away the same day, only 20-some minutes before, also from complications of dementia. His death actually made the New York Times in an article1 that also mentions my grandmother:

A sister, Marianne Donovan, also died on Monday.

So my grandmother made the New York Times!

I only saw Charles now and then at family events, but I do remember him encouraging me to continue writing when I was a child prodigy… or a child interested in writing stories at least.

My grandmother was very fond of Charles, so I can easily imagine them reunited, with their minds made whole again, entering the eternal kingdom together. Requiescat in pace.

Ow! I broke my finger…

Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving! The holiday fell on my birthday this year, so happy birthday to myself!

I also broke the ring finger on my left hand.

Last night, while unfolding a stepladder, I somehow managed to smash a finger tip between one the steps and the metal bar it snaps onto underneath. It actually latched on completely, so the stepladder was fully open, with my finger wedged inside. It hurt. It was even more painful when I managed to unlatch it and pull my finger out. It was a bit misshapen and the bottom of the fingernail actually popped out of the skin. It looked disgusting. (It still does, but I put a band-aid over that part so I don’t have to see it anymore.) I actually almost fainted, got all sweaty and weak.

So we went to the ER and they took an x-ray and confirmed a small fracture. Also got an extensor tendon disruption, so I can’t straighten out the end of the finger, so I’ve got a minor case of “mallet finger”. Hopefully the tendon is not completely torn and it will heal with no need for surgery. (Fingers crossed, but not that one.)

I’ve got a splint on the finger now. The pain has subsided with some pain meds, but still hasn’t gone away. I have to hold the hand up a bit, otherwise the finger throbs with pain. Fortunately I’m right-handed, so the loss of dexterity is not too extreme. I can also still use the index finger and thumb of my left hand, I just can’t bend the middle finger or pinky very much with the ring finger in a splint.

The doctor said not to do any work whatsoever for at least a year. I can only stay in bed and watch movies. Really wish I could do some work, but… *sigh*… oh well!