Happy St. Paddy’s Day! [DOT 17/3/23]

May the luck of the Irish be with you!

Ukraine updates:

Poland to deliver fighter jets to Ukraine in major escalation of military backing


3 Virginia hospital workers charged with murder in death of Irvo Otieno

This fucking guy.

Billionaire Peter Thiel claims he has $50m of his own money stuck in SVB fall


First Republic secures $30 billion rescue from large banks

Sprots! Did you fill your bracket in time? I autogenerated my work bracket at 11:56 yesterday.

Princeton knocks off No. 2 Arizona; Duke thrashes Oral Roberts

I love this episode

Have a great day!



  1. This is an interesting, very long article:

    Who Is Still Inside the Metaverse? Searching for friends in Mark Zuckerberg’s deserted fantasyland


    It sure seems hard to imagine what kind of appeal it will ever have.

    After a certain number of hours in Zuckerberg’s personal universe, you find yourself asking questions like “Does he think this is good?” Looking through my notes, I keep coming across words like diminished, depleted, wan, bleak. The beta-ness of it all is mystifying. If I were Zuckerberg and I’d spent $36 billion building a metaverse, I’d make sure when I launched it there was something to do.

    To be fair, I could see it getting maybe, possibly popular with a subset of people, maybe even reaching the scale of Minecraft or Madden. But Madden’s sales over the years are in the single digits of billions of dollars, and Zuckerberg has already dumped double digits of billions into…. this.

    And now he’s cut over 20,000 employees and slashed lots of development in other areas.  This has a strong feeling of Kodak blowing a fortune on the disc camera, permanently ceding the market for 35 mm cameras to Japanese companies, then lacking the technical expertise and capital to move to digital.

    Except on a much bigger scale.

    • …he’s one of my least favorite people…but…if I had to really try to imagine what he thinks he’s doing & why it’s worth burning through the monopoly money he has in the bank to do it?

      …I think maybe it might look at least a little bit like this…social media blew up…& he was right there riding that wave…& the shit they learned with all their morally-dubious A/B testing on their unprecedently-broad lab-subjects adoring userbase…particularly the parts that include terms like “nudge” or “steer”…especially in close proximity to “engagement” or “drive revenue”…they pretty much cemented in his head the idea that he could predict the future pretty accurately

      …the various toothless hearings he robotically provided non-answers to over the years as various shady practices came to light pulled off a similar trick regarding what he could get away with

      …but…it’s tough at the top…& that holy grail of a constantly-expanding userbase started seeing other people…& the monopoly side of the money started to look a little shaky…but there’s still ungodly amounts of it

      …so…he looks around & thinks…if facebook hadn’t just been a big thing on the internet but a big part of the infrastructure…the way amazon or google or microsoft can lay claim to huge amounts of “the cloud”…then people would still have to keep using his shit & tithing to the king in data & cash even if they don’t like or use anything he actually came up with

      …& nobody’s cracked the wearable tech quite…but…take those glasses with a built-in camera that came out of snapchat & you aren’t far off an AR device that could run that be my eyes thing for a blind person…give it its own SIM & network connection & you’ve got the beginning of a subscription model you could tie to at least three or four revenue streams off the top of my head

      …but…blind folks are a minority…if you could get people to put up with a HUD in their field of view for the same amounts of time they’re willing to voluntarily stare at a screen already…well…you’re starting to approach getting to take a cut of the value of whatever can keep those eyeballs on it for yet more of their waking hours

      …& if the protocols all that stuff runs on are yours the way that a lot of the CUPS stuff used to talk to printers was developed by apple…except you don’t give it away as a public service so people don’t waste time re-inventing that wheel

      …well…then you’ve pretty much got it made in the shade…& I do mean out of the spotlight

      …if you’re not in the tiny handful of tech behemoths like google or microsoft or “meta” (arguably there’s a clue in the name if you’re open to a sinister interpretation…say…the way metaphysics subsumes physics by laying claim to an overarching landscape)…then that kind of a plan is just a surefire way to go broke…&…even for zuck it still could be…& if I’m honest I’m close to praying to a deity I don’t exactly believe in that it proves to be

      …but monopoly money can do a great impression of being inexhaustible…so that runway is a lot longer than any hungry little startups with a killer app or angle that might get users to adopt their shit can even dream of if they turn into a unicorn & get the pick of the litter among angel investors

      …that’s almost entirely idle speculation on my part…but it would seem to align pretty well with that federated/de-centralized twitter-like platform getting integrated with your pre-existing instagram credentials…mastodon is based on an open-source shareware kind of a platform…his…more or less certainly won’t be…it’s just another on-ramp to get you into a vertically-integrated ecosystem

      …because it worked gangbusters for microsoft…then apple tweaked it & eclipsed that level of success in end-user terms if not business-side arrangements…& google have taken/are taking a run at a similar thing with the cloud/chrome/android combo…so…that makes it tried & tested…kinda-sorta…if you look at it from a particular angle & squint just right?

      • Yeah, IMO I view it as a “why not both” with his dream to build something he can charge for in perpetuity but also that he got pretty lucky with FB and was much more “right place, right time” than he was “singular visionary.” I’m sure he thinks of himself that way! But like most of Silicon Valley, he’s a one-hit wonder until he proves otherwise … and so far, none of them are proving otherwise.

        What I think is broadly interesting is that nothing good has come out of Silicon Valley in the past decade. The supposedly game-changing tech suddenly isn’t changing anything once venture capital funding can’t artificially keep prices low (Uber, Airbnb) or is shown to be more of a leap in marketing than in technology (Tesla). You can’t expect an iPhone to show up every year, but it seems a little weird that after a fairly fertile time for tech innovation, we’ve basically stagnated. Well, it’s weird at least unless you come to the pretty straightforward conclusion that what Silicon Valley does isn’t working.

        • Facebook can’t even come up with another FarmVille! And now Zuckerberg is laying off a boatload of developers who could him regain the boatloads of people who originally came to Facebook because of simple low tech fun.

          • …would you say it’s a coincidence he’s just now pulling the trigger on that as spinning up LLMs is getting cheaper & they’re getting good at turning vague hints into executable code?

            …the stuff in that what-they’ve-done-in-three-&-some-hours twitter thread was pretty staggering

            …like giving it a line off a bank statement with no value for the transaction & not only getting a breakdown of what it meant in term of business & location but producing code to automate that process

            …the black mirror version of that is as terrifying to me as the wow-that’s-amazing part of the “neat trick”

              • The first weeks of Pokémon Go were also communal and positive. I spoke to a lot of strangers IRL because of it. It was also wonderful because it wasn’t just people my age. From kids to seniors, we were a safe space secret society linking up at random spots in public.

                • …I remember a lot of people finding that to be the case

                  …but then again nintendo are sort of the big cuddly bear in the room full of games companies that seem to be more by way of robot wars or call of duty

                  …so maybe that’s not altogether surprising?

                  …there’s a lot of games that do well in their native market that don’t get much traction outside it…some of them skeevy…but a lot more that seem pretty benign…like driving tractors or fishing or whatever

                  …I guess you need to train your audience to some extent before they’ll go along with that sort of thing…& it’s tough when most of them are looking for fast cars & big explosions the way they do with their movies?

                  [ETA: …which reminds me…about the time half-life 2 & colin macrae’s rally-whatever were getting lauded for clever things to do with physics engines & “true randomness”…I seem to recall there was a bass-fishing game where the fish were (contemporaneously) about the most advanced learning-algorithm-based AI opponents going…& the game got harder as they learned all your moves & stopped falling for the stuff that used to get them caught…weird to think that if AI actually evolves arguably it would also have in a sense moved from the realm of the fish into the dry land of the human sphere?]

                • Thiel’s a liar. Nobody’s money is “stuck” in SVB. They are open for business as usual, and he can have his money as long as he didn’t sign a term sheet or covenant stating he would keep it in SVB. If he did, I hope SVB declares him in default and executes a material adverse change on his ass. I’m pretty sure you won’t find anybody at SVB who would be willing to extend him a temporary covenant exclusion like they’re doing with other customers.

                  Fuck that guy indeed.

                  • …I find it…very peter thiel, let’s say…that the money he left “stuck” there…or at least temporarily stranded…was on deposit & got saved mostly by collateral effect of the state needing to shore up confidence & not murder businesses

                    …but the money invested in it…the sort that hasn’t been granted that get-out-of-jail-free card…he & his boys got that shit out of dodge in the nick of time…after doing their best to start the boulder rolling down hill in the first place

                    …& then he rounds out the hat-trick selling bridge loans in the panic phase before the FDIC stuff kicked in & resumed normal service

                    …wouldn’t be a bit surprised to find he shorted SVB late in the game, either…or even not so late, come to that

                    …all in all the intersecting orbits of the thiels & musks of the world do make me sympathize with the OG luddites…I think some of them were dubbed “the breakers”…& thiel’s is less tangible machinery for the most part…but if that shit isn’t illegal or they’re otherwise at liberty to do it anyway

                    …some people’s shit could stand to get wrecked is all I’m saying?

        • …I think it’s absolutely telling that a lot of these apps/services only “work” if you artificially juice them one way or another

          …& in a lot of the same ways that the valuation of tesla (& everything that’s enabled musk to set fire to) is upside-down-&-backwards divorced from the increasing number of both start-ups & established car manufacturers that are bringing better products to the market for better prices…sort of the way it usually works

          …& I get that he may have actually provided a similar kind of assist to the subsidies uber et al leveraged when it came to scaling the battery & charging side of things…& that maybe…just maybe…that deserves some sort of profit-taking premium over & above the one he clearly aimed to bake in through the charging infrastructure in as close to perpetuity as he could wrangle

          …but trying to point to that shit as evidence of his humanitarian ethical credentials (the way so many elon stans that you gotta wonder how many of them are either paid or automated do) is deeply illogical to me

          …with some of this stuff though I can buy (…not in the effective altruism sense that’s just a bunch of reverse-engineered excuses for doing shit you shouldn’t in the present & claiming your profiting from it directly right now is a moral good off the back of its effects on whatever remains of humanity in a far-flung hypothetical future…but) that it can only look smart in hindsight & we can’t tell which bits if any will pay off or form part of that cohesive whole?

          …there’s a common trope in sci-fi where AI is the shorthand for how you get to a post-commercial utopia…full bore you add matter replicators & you get star trek…but lower key they handle all the moving parts of keeping a nice peaceful & harmonious society full of people with no reason to get mad at each other on the rails & riding smoothly…that’s easy to do when you can start at a point where the fact that it works that way is so well-established from a culturally-entrenched point of view that nobody has any issues with it…at least none you don’t inject for narrative purposes

          …but…even if this turns out to be the past of that sort of future…which is a long way from certain…how ugly that looks while you’re on the road to the promised land the faithful devoutly believe themselves to be is generally not the part people like to read about for recreational purposes

          …the putative benefits of the sort of multi-spectrum panopticon required for the sort of thing the culture novels call a “terminal” (…basically your personal hookup to everything machine-intermediated…in whatever form you find convenient…pen, jewellery, ornament, tablet, subcutaneous device) to work is the stuff of a terrifying dystopia in the hands of any extant regime of my political lifetime

          …but…if you associate those kinds of hypothetical benefits with an unconscious bias towards believing they come with all the stuff baked into the fictional context…& you don’t get out much because you’re feverishly coding in grinding cycles of “crunch”

          …I can see how you might think you were doing the lord’s work in a side of the angels way…instead of the lords’ work in the sense of the ersatz barons of the digital world they’re doing their best to arrest at a feudal stage of development?

          …if you ask me that’s not how you get dyson spheres, ringworlds, orbital loops or space elevators

          …but…for obvious reasons…nobody’s likely to ask me…at least not twice…or without their eyes glazing over?

            • …I strongly suspect that handing me a mic is quite possibly the sort of territory where angels fear to tread

              …but these days it’s not impossible myo could stitch me up with some sort of automated read-this voice like the guardian app will do to any story

              …or google & various text-to-speech engines, I suppose

              …so…I suppose I ought to let it be known I shall take offense if he picks the voice of HAL from 2001

              …but I’d take it as a compliment if it came from red dwarf…on a sliding scale, though…OG holly for most flattered…replacement holly…probably in second place to kryten…after which (preferably ace but even standard) rimmer…& if it’s that insufferable AI toaster…then I expect myo & I might have words about that?

      • I get that he’s hoping he can own the wearable tech monopoly and the OS for it and control the apps that plug into it all, but he’s chasing a path that has a huge number of interlocking dependencies and no solid evidence that there’s even a demand for the basics.

        The implementation details of self driving cars are a nightmare, but you can at least see why every car owner might want one, and how incremental steps like driver assist or closed loop systems could be wildly profitable.

        As this article points out, it seems hard to see how this works without gigantic investment — $100 billion? $500 billion? — just to get to the point where the graphics and networking match what you can get with Zoom. Microsoft has tried to leverage all of its OS advantage to push Teams past Zoom, and it’s not clear they’ll have any luck. They tried to do the same thing with their phones, and that failed. I don’t think Zuck has the juice to do any better than Microsoft.

        There’s a joke in the miniseries Chernobyl: “What’s as big as a house, burns 20 liters of fuel every hour, puts out a shit-load of smoke and noise, and cuts an apple into three pieces? A Soviet machine made to cut apples into four pieces!” That’s the sense of what I think Zuckerberg is doing here, except bigger.

        His Metaverse gives off the sense of being like the old Soviet plans to rebuild their entire steam engine industry and affiliated steel and parts industries on a centralized, Party-run plan. Only in the end they had something worse than the steam locomotives the US gave up decades earlier when they went to diesel locomotives, trucks and cargo planes.

        • a path that has a huge number of interlocking dependencies and no solid evidence that there’s even a demand for the basics

          …that’s why the bet is mainly on being as many of those dependencies as the monopolies & mergers people will let him get away with before they understand what they’ve allowed & it’s already grandfathered in because without it things don’t work

          …which seems like an at least functional parallel with musk only needing the cars at all to get to try to pull off a similar trick with batteries & charging infrastructure

          …there’s a reason they call some of those battery ingredients rare earth minerals…& no heir to an emerald mine fortune is likely to be blind to that?

          …which…more or less…is why if I had the means to I’d bet against them… preferably on a scale that nixes their whole game?

          • That’s why I brought up the old Soviet model. They had a monopoly and enormous amounts of capital, both in terms of cash which they got from exports, as well as manpower, engineering expertise, and more. They threw huge resources at satellites, for example, and got one up first.

            But what happened is while they were controlling the space they owned, the world moved on to new things that quickly superseded what they were clumsily staggering toward.

            Zuckerberg might own a monopoly on his vision of a metaverse, but he can’t monopolize the entire tech world. And the irony of his approach is that the more tightly he locks up a crappy system with monopoly approach, the more likely the world will decide to go in a completely different direction.

            The Soviets tended to build systems which only functioned once every single piece was in place, and the tendency for critical elements to get held up at chokepoints due to top leadership problems meant that entire systems might rust out due to a shortfall from a single grommet factory purged of its engineers for an ideological dispute.

            That’s sure what seems to be happening at Facebook.

            • …& I’d not only agree that seems possible but would stack it in the preferred-possible-outcomes pile

              …but a lot like it’s getting harder to look under the hood of what openAI is looking to corner a market or two with…it’s hard to see how much of a groundgame he’s assembling when it comes to patent-trolling his way to riches in any future where tech even glances in that direction at a level of mass adoption…in a manner I imagine would bear considerable resemblance to the spat samsung & apple had over UI/hardware/firmware aspects of phone designs vis a vis form being wedded to function & who owes who licencing fees or royalties or whatever kind of a cut/benefit-in-kind/sweetheart deal/commission/percentage/taste the lawyers get around to confecting a case for or against

              …& if those are cheap AI lawyers from the top 10% of bar-exam-scorers…& you’re zuckerberg…that’s a lot of cases in a lot of jurisdictions would be my bet?

              • I think the old ATT is one possible outcome. They had an innovation machine at Bell Labs which gave them a huge advantage of engineering skill, a giant library of tech developments, and tons of patents, which they just sat on for decades.

                Instead they spent endless years caught up in the rollout of touchtone to replace rotary dials, and years and years more phasing out cords.

                The leadership was stuck in a couple of ways. One was a commitment to keep steady dividends flowing year after year, and the other was a failure to understand anything but bakelite, rubber and copper.

                Zuckerberg may want to do a lot of things, but his leadership seems awfully incapable of understanding new markets and tech. I think we may end up with something like the old ATT, which was ubiquitous, bad, and a shadow of what it should or could be.

                • …yeah…which…if it basically means his whole operation goes tits up & croaks to leave things open for fresher & better blood…I’d probably be willing to chalk up in the win column

                  …but if something analogous to that AI-patent-lawyer-bot-farming thing turns out to be the equivalent of grinding/gold-farming in a videogame but at scale…& that holds them in place as a de facto only game in town

                  …it might not be the literal worst…but I can well imagine it seeming like it?

  2. Sending Mig 29s make sense as the Ukrainians don’t need to retrain on say an F-16. They are already in their inventory.

    That was what Mav and Goose were supposed to be tangling with in Top Gun, but the Sovs weren’t going to let Bruckheimer and gang fly/blow up their latest and greatest for the amusement of Cold War Kids to Yvan ot Nioj.

  3. I haven’t understood why this wasn’t the first thing Biden did when he took power.  No reason propaganda should be played 24-7 on military bases…

    Where does this end?


    This is the best description of Trump I have ever heard!


    • …the rosa parks thing ought to be the nadir of those efforts…it’s an egregious & active distortion of the facts & context to the point of flat out leaving out the active ingredients of what the whole story illustrates

      …but…I fear…it’s probably a long way from the rock bottom of that slippery slope?

      …there’s a poet called lemn sissay…& I heard him performing to an audience the other day & he had a bit in between this or that poem where he said (not quite verbatim but I think I can manage the gist of it)

      “trigger warning for young people – in this show I will be discussing race…this does not make me a racist…ordering cheesecake does not make me a cheesecake”
      “trigger warning for old people – in this show I will be discussing race…this does not make you a racist…pointing out cheesecake is on the menu does not make you order the cheesecake”
      “trigger warning for middle-aged people – in this show I will be doing a lot of trigger warning jokes…sorry…probably should have mentioned that earlier”

      …don’t have a link to the show/talk/performance/whatever-you’d-actually-call-it handy…but he’s well worth listening to if you can spare the time…& funny as well as frequently insightful?

  4. Here’s an interesting article about the implosion of the New York State Democratic Party apparatus, from Slate of all places. I didn’t realize Slate was still around!


    That Jay Jacobs, the State Democratic Party chair that turned New York into a swing state in 2022. The conspiracy-minded would be forgiven for believing that he is some kind of embedded Republican fifth columnist, forcing national Democrats to pour money into New York State. Jacobs is probably the most dangerous Cuomo holdover, and it says a lot about Governor Hochul that she keeps him around after she barely won a squeaker of her own election. Come clean, Pay to Play. What exactly were you up to while you were Lt. Gov. and how much do Jacobs and Handsy Andy know about it?

    If you read the link, there’s a nice little revelation about disgraced-former-Govornor Andrew Cuomo’s latest initiative. The whole article is worth a read, since in 2022 it was New York that pretty much flipped the House Republican.

    • It’s always been a sign of how weak Cuomo was that he preferred a small, incompetent party organization to a big, capable one.

      He knew that he couldn’t keep control over a professional organization, and that any smart, strategic thinkers would inevitably come to profound disagreements with his own weirdo, shortsighted thinking. It’s classic insecure leadership.

    • Cuomo’s out of his mind, per usual, and this step is … really on-brand for him.

      What is interesting is that people in the know in Albany will tell you that Hochul and Cuomo barely had a “working relationship” and she was kept at arm’s-length from the jump. His first Lt. Gov. very cheerfully ditched the ticket to go back to Rochester; not to insult that city but it was a step (or six) down to do so and it was made quite clear that he was not involved at all in the day-to-day anything.

      None of this is to clear her or the fact that the Dem Machine was as much or more the Cuomo Machine … but Hochul, sadly, might be less invested in Cuomo and more just come at her priggish right-leaning “centrism” naturally.

    • when we arrest him…i call dibs on his ridiculously oversized table

      seems like a handy thing to have for christmas dinner…. plenty space to seat the annoying family members far far away from me

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