That moment in the movie

I absolutely loved the Jordan Peele movie “Nope”. I saw it by myself, which I think really helped me to appreciate it. Seeing it alone, it felt as though I was reading a very thoughtful novel.

I saw that on IMDB quite a few people gave the movie a 1 out of 10 rating. They didn’t just dislike it — they actively hated it. Some wrote that it was the worst movie they had ever seen.

I had quite the opposite reaction. Peele packed so many ideas into that one film, and he did it with subtlety. Rather than hitting you over the head, the movie forces you to tease out the many overlapping meanings on your own.

But there was one moment in particular that was absolutely transcendent. I have rarely experienced a moment in a movie when so many threads of meaning have come together in one startling camera shot.

But I can’t talk to anyone about it, because I would need to find somebody else who saw the movie. And nobody I know seems to have seen it.

Future skills

Today, if you want to make something really original on the computer, and somebody hasn’t already written a program for you to make that particular kind of thing (like Minecraft or Photoshop or PowerPoint), then you need to write code. And writing code is a difficult to learn and specialized skill that most people never master.

I think one of the major changes that will be brought about by this new generation of chatbots is a fundamental shift in this paradigm. These tools allow you to describe the things you want to create in plain English, without needing to explicitly write out the computer code to implement what you’ve specified.

This will enable children of the coming generation to develop a new kind of literacy. Those children will grow up to be adults who possess the ability to create things for themselves that until now have required a full-on knowledge of computer programming.

The skill to work this way with a chatbot assistant does not yet widely exist. But in the future it will.

Many of the things that people now need to hire programmers for, they will be able to do for themselves. And this will have a transformative economic impact, the way the rise of mass literacy between 1600 and 1800 transformed the European economy.

On accident

Yesterday somebody pointed out to me that for people under 30, the phrase “by accident” has largely been replaced by “on accident”. Someone in the conversation who is under 30 nodded and said “yes, it’s ‘on accident'”.

I found this startling because I had literally never, until that moment, heard the phrase “on accident”. I always use “by accident”. I think this is a clear example of the English language evolving before our eyes.

I must admit that “on accident” is more logical than “by accident”. After all, it parallels the complementary phrase “on purpose”.

But a related question is why such a mutation occurs. Surely it can’t be completely by accident.

Or on accident, if you prefer.


We celebrate the birthdays of highly accomplished people, whether they be saints, artists, athletes or political leaders. We do not celebrate the day that they died.

Yet on the day that any individual was born, they have not yet accomplished anything. They are, at that point, all potential, no accomplishment.

But on the day an accomplished person passes away, they have accumulated a lifetime of achievement, sometimes towering achievement. Given that we are celebrating what they managed to accomplish while they were here on this Earth, might it not make more sense to celebrate them on the day that they left?

I realize that this may be a controversial idea. 🙂

Circular projection

I was visiting a museum today. One of the exhibits featured a circular projection against the wall.

To be clear the projector they used was a perfectly ordinary projector which protects a rectangular image. But a mask was installed near the lens, blocking out all light outside of a soft-edged disk shaped region.

The result is surprising effective. The region within registered not so much as a projection, but as a magical round window into another world.

I am delighted that a technique which is so simple can produce something that is so effective. Somehow this makes me very happy.


Often, just for fun, I do old NY Times Saturday crossword puzzles from their archives, usually on my phone. Sometimes I can finish them very quickly — my best times are around 10 minutes or so. But other times it can take a lot longer.

The other day I was wrestling with a particularly difficult one. I was really struggling, and it looked like it was going to take at least half an hour.

When I finally filled in the last square, I looked at my time, and it read 29:59. In that moment I felt an enormous sense of elation.

Never mind that it had taken me about three times longer than my best times. I felt enormously happy that I had gotten in just under the wire, beating the half hour mark by a single second.

If I had finished the puzzle in 11:37, I would not have felt the same pleasurable rush as I felt at 29:59. Logically it made no sense. And yet there it was.

What is this emotion, this irrational response to beating an arbitrary — and arguably meaningless — marker? Why do we get so excited at such “achievements”?

Why did I feel such a heady sense of accomplishment? All I had really done was manage to finish a crossword puzzle in half an hour.

Well, actually, less than half an hour. 🙂