The Blog is 19 Today!

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The first Pun Salad blog post, Introduction, was made on February 27, 2005. As the Deadhead said: "What a long strange trip it's been."

I reread that post, and it still seems to hold up. Pun Salad remains "a repository for half-baked thoughts, ill-informed opinion, bad-tempered rants, gooey sentiment, and links to things on the Web I think are worth clicking upon, which you could probably find on your own anyway."

Yes, I've always been this eloquent.

Will we make it to an even 20 years? "At my age" it's foolish to make rash promises, so I'll just say: stick around for 366 days and find out.

But on to the important stuff:

  • I assume the moon-nuking will commence any day now. The Time I Shut Down Google. By noticing something a little … off when he asked Google Gemini

    Plenty more examples at the link. Experimentation:

    I went on to do several more experiments to figure out how this “diversity” algorithm worked. I found out it filtered to only add diversity when the result was something where you’d often get white people as the response. So, while “popes” became diversified, you only got black people when asking for “Zulu warriors” and only Latinos when asking for a “mariachi band.”

    I also found it ignored pronouns… but only male pronouns. So, when I asked for “a firefighter wearing his hat,” I got a mix of men and women (all people of color), but when I asked for a “firefighter wearing her hat,” I got only women.

    I also had some interesting results finding some diversity holes with fantasy creatures. When I asked for elves, I only got white elves. But when I asked for vampires, they were all vampires of color. And when I asked for fairies, I got a racial mix, but pixies were all white.

    We could draw somber conclusions from this, but I will just chuckle. Is Google now sorry it fired James Damore? Nah, probably not. But they should be.

    Glenn Harlan Reynolds (blogfather to Pun Salad and countless others) has thoughts about Google's AI Debacle. With more hilarious examples. And deep thoughts.

    Well, this is a funny fail at one level, and a not-so-funny story of built-in prejudice in artificial intelligence at another. One lesson is that it follows up woke revisionist versions of history on college campuses, where we’re supposed to “decolonize” the past.

    Another is that you’d be a fool to trust Google. Assuming this is just bad programming, then, well, it’s really bad programming. That somehow nobody noticed. One suggestion is that this means that Google has a diversity problem:

    Glenn goes on to quote extensively from that last link.

    Keep in mind that Gemini has been in development for nearly a year, and there is no doubt that it has been heavily tested. Google has seen these results for months (at least) and believed they were completely normal. As mentioned: to employees at Google, it was performing AS EXPECTED.

    How does that happen? How does an organization with thousands of engineers remain blind to what is easily seen by the rest of the population?

    The answer: a complete LACK of diversity in Google’s leadership and employee population (and this isn’t limited to Google, of course).

  • This item goes well with the book I recently read… And, no, it wasn't by Ayn Rand; it was Crack-Up Capitalism:Market Radicals and the Dream of a World Without Democracy by Wellesley professor Quinn Slobodian.

    Professor Slobodian could have, but didn't, mention that in some locations "democracy" seems to be dreaming about a world without capitalists. The latest example is described by Daniel Kowalski: California’s Politicians Appear Determined to Bring ‘Atlas Shrugged’ to Life.

    During the 20th century, California was the jewel of America. Beautiful weather, diverse landscapes, access to the Pacific Ocean, and other features made it the leading state of the nation. There is a saying that says “As California goes, so goes the nation” because to many Americans this seemed like the best place in the entire country to live and raise a family.

    Things seem to have changed in the 21st century though. When times were good, the government of California grew and spent more money than it had. In the short term, most people ignored this problem, but as time went on the deficits grew and grew. By the year 2000, the government had run up a debt of $57 billion. Twenty-two years later that number had almost tripled to $145 billion dollars. Since California is a state and not a nation they couldn’t print money to make up for the downfall, so their only options were to either cut spending or raise taxes. They chose the latter.

    For state income taxes, California has the highest rates in the entire nation. They also have a declining population, with a loss of more than half a million people since a peak population of 39.5 million in 2019—and they did not all die of Covid. The majority are people who left to live in other states that did not have oppressive taxes and draconian Covid restrictions.

    While wise leaders might look at this indicator and see it as a sign that they should change course, wisdom seems to be in short supply for the political elite in this state. Rather than move towards freedom, they are instead moving to erode and attack property rights even more through the form of a wealth tax. Of course, the people proposing this are trying to sell the idea to the public by saying only the super wealthy will be on the hook for this. The rest of us in the ninety-percent will benefit thanks to the rich paying their “fair share”.

    Even the Los Angeles Times was forced to sound like a headline in an Ayn Rand novel last December: Rich people are leaving California. That's bad for the economy. Ya think?

  • And this item goes well with a book I read back in 2018. That book is The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money by Bryan Caplan. The Slashdot headline sums it up pretty well: Half of College Graduates Are Working High School Level Jobs. Quoting a CBS News report:

    If a graduate's first job is in a low-paying field or out-of-line with a worker's interests, it could pigeonhole them into an undesirable role or industry that's hard to escape, according to a new study from The Burning Glass Institute and the Strada Institute for the Future of Work. The findings come as more Americans question the eroding value of a college degree, and as more employers are dropping higher education degree requirements altogether.

    "What we found is that even in a red-hot economy, half of graduates are winding up in jobs they didn't need to go to college to get," Burning Glass CEO Matt Sigelman told CBS MoneyWatch. Examples of jobs that don't require college-level skills include roles in the retail, hospitality and manufacturing sectors, according to Sigelman.

    Another study from the HEA Group found that a decade after enrolling in college, attendees of 1 in 4 higher education programs are earning less than $32,000 — the median annual income for high school graduates.

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    I'm currently reading a different book that sheds some light on how we are stuck with a "higher education system" that makes results described above likely to continue. Link at your right.

  • How about some R-rated hilarity for a palate cleanser? Jeff Maurer hosts a review of a new movie: Ethan Coen's "Drive-Away Dolls". And that review is (um, allegedly) by Ethan's brother Joel.

    Is driving away from something the same as driving towards something? That’s the question that “filmmaker” Ethan Coen asks with his new project, Drive-Away Dolls. But the only place that movie-goers will want to drive after kicking the wheels on this tired turd is straight off a fucking cliff.

    In the interest of full disclosure, my editor has requested that I mention that I am Mr. Coen’s brother, and that he negatively reviewed my film The Tragedy of MacBeth on this site two years ago. I have also occasionally collaborated with Mr. Coen in the past. Nonetheless, I feel that I am fully capable of objectively reviewing Mr. Coen’s work, and in fact, I have gone so far as to obtain this notarized Certificate Of Objectivity from the state of California.

    I strongly recommend you read Ethan's review of Joel's Macbeth movie first if you haven't.