When A.I. intersects with my own little life…

I began to write this blog in May of 2012 when we started serious work on the little cottage where we now live. In fact, we started calling it Apple Hill Cottage because I needed a name for my brand new blog. I kept such accurate records of our remodeling jobs (which is why I started the blog in the first place) that we have since used it many times to look up when we actually put those doors in, or how old is that dishwasher anyway, or what was the date that we moved in full time?

A few years ago I started writing a devotional, based partly on those old posts, and partly on what I’d learned spiritually in those nine or so years of rebuilding an earthly house. I eventually made a blog of those writings and titled it Faith Is the Hammer, Grace Is the Nail. Not so many people read it, and I didn’t do any publicity on it, so when it came up for renewal this year, I decided it was time to end the payments. For the last couple of weeks I’ve been copying and pasting those writings, so I don’t lose them when Faith Is the Hammer goes away on February 20th. (As some point soon, these writings will show up on this home page, if you are interested…)

The process of copying and pasting was mildly frustrating. WordPress wouldn’t always allow me to copy what I wanted to copy, and until I got into a rhythm of how to do it successfully, I lost a good chunk of one post. It was there on my former revisions page. I could see it. But I couldn’t copy it. So I was messing around with some block components that I’d never tried before on the WordPress editor.

Suddenly a paragraph appeared.

The troubling part is They Weren’t My Words.

Oh, they made sense enough, but I knew what I’d been trying to paste, and this paragraph wasn’t it. I reread it. It sort of made sense. But it wasn’t really what I’d been trying to say. In fact, as I read it a third and fourth time, I realized that it REALLY wasn’t what I’d been trying to say. I checked again what link I’d pushed. And sure enough, there in the Tools Bar is a little button labeled AI Paragraph (experimental). (It looks like a shield with a lightning bolt through it.) I just clicked on it again, and here’s what A.I. came up with:

Then I had an epiphany. What if A.I. could interpret my thoughts and write on my behalf? Instead of painstakingly trying to get my thoughts down on paper, I could simply tell a machine what was on my mind and have it come up with an accurate representation of my ideas.

The potential application of this technology has applications throughout everyday life. For example: potential uses could range from helping to automate the sifting of resumes for job applications, to helping teachers compose effective lesson plans.

If A.I. can help me to…

If A.I. can help me to… Well, I just want to say WHAT? Do I really want a bot interpreting my thoughts and writing on my behalf?

(Here I just want to insert a paragraph to tell you, dear readers, that all my writings have been my own, unless I have specifically quoted someone, in which case I always told you who–as in PERSON–I quoted.)

Just reread that charming A.I. paragraph above: it suggests that A.I. could help teachers compose lesson plans… or it could help me write my novel when I am stuck… or it could write on my behalf and help me finish this post. I hope you are as horrified by this as I am.

The above A.I. written paragraph actually is not what I would say at all. And the thought that a bot wrote it, and I can claim it as my own is Creepy, Terrifying, and Unreal. Yes, of course, I’ve heard about Twitter bots, and Russian bots on Facebook, but I have deleted all my social networks except this blog. And I never thought that this A.I bot stuff would ever affect me personally. Turns out I might have been living with my head in the sand (which is often my preferred method). Who knows what I’ve been reading online and who might have written it. Or rather what wrote it? Can I scream here?

The interesting thing is that the A.I. bot continues to learn what one is writing about and changes from one paragraph to another. If I deleted the paragraph above, and then tried to insert it somewhere else in the writing, it would read differently. To read some fascinating articles about the new A.I. program that Microsoft just released, try this: ‘I want to be human.’ My intense, unnerving chat with Microsoft’s AI chatbot. Or this one: From Bing to Sidney. Or Microsoft’s response: Microsoft limits Bing A.I. chats.

Here’s the next thing A.I. has to say…

Ah, a cool A.I. intersection!

Despite what the pessimists may have you believe, modern technology can improve our lives. Even on a small scale, like in my own little country life, Artificial Intelligence can draw on real-world data to suggest options, giving me a little bit of brainpower boost.

Take planning meals. My hectic weekly schedule requires something quick and nutritious but tasty, and it’s always a good idea to avoid repeating the same thing too often. With A.I. I can…

Aha. A.I. is trying to get me off track. Maybe I should write about the new sourdough brioche bread that is rising in the kitchen… And did you notice how it defends itself and claims the PESSIMISTS are the ones sounding the alarms? Suddenly Klara and the Sun, the Ishiguro book that I reviewed here, seems no longer Science Fiction, but eerily prescient. And can I just say that I am allowed to call my life little, but a stupid A.I. bot writer is most certainly not.

Here I sit. The Pessimist, the real human writer, sounding the alarm. I can promise you that this post was not written by a Russian, Chinese, or American bot….except for the red parts; who knows where they came from?

этот пост не был написан ни русским, ни китайцем, ни американцем одновременно.

Thoughts on Blooming Out of Season

I hate winter. Grey. Cold. Cloudy. Sunless.

I may have never been diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder, but I’m sure that I suffer from it. It would be perfectly fine with me if I could just hibernate all winter and wake up about March 21. To document the misery, WorldAtlas.com lists Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as THE CLOUDIEST CITY in the United States, averaging 2021 hours of sunlight per year. 77% cloudy. Who knew? I thought surely Portland had us in the cloudy department; after all, Portland is known for rainy weather. According to the WorldAtlas, western PA is so cloudy (especially in winter) because the Northern Jetstream likes to hang out here.

So, I guess I’m whining. The sun was out for a few hours today, and I put my flowering azalea outside to drink in some weak Western PA January sun.

Yes, it’s blooming. Spectacularly.

In January.

I bought it late (straight from Home Depot’s half-price sale in September) to be a large potted plant outside the front door by our newly paved walk. The plan for its life in winter was vague; it was really just meant to replace the recently deceased avocado tree that I grew from seed. But that’s another story (and very indicative of my ups and downs with potted plants).

This Rhododendron ‘Conlep’ did fine all through the autumn. It’s name is Autumn Twist, after all. Mild frosts didn’t seem to bother it, but overnight one early December morning, the deer had chewed off the ends of every tender little branch.

Enraged, I brought it into the mudroom and put it by the window. I hoped it would get enough light, and I moved it back and forth between inside and outside for a few days, until the frigid 20 below Arctic blast descended around Christmas time. The wood stove was going full blast in December, and I think it must have thought spring was here when it felt the heat of the wood stove. Because a few days after Christmas, I noticed the buds. And just a few days later, there were more buds. It’s spindly; it’s been losing leaves, but oh, when those buds opened…

When I sat down to write this post, I realized that only recently I also wrote about lilacs blooming in September, and another winter post celebrated dandelions blooming in winter. I might be fixated on blooming out of season, but here’s the thing: if flowers can bloom when they aren’t supposed to, then people can thrive under cloudy, sub-optimal conditions too. I’m trying to keep this in my thoughts…

I wrote this verse from Ecclesiastes on my kitchen blackboard the other day to remind me that there are seasons for busy-ness, seasons for quiet, seasons for celebrating, seasons for grief and lamenting. It seems to me good and right, that after the busy, celebratory season of Christmas, is January, a time for quiet, a time for lament.

No one enjoys suffering, yet we all know that when the season of suffering is done, we can look back and see. See with new eyes what that time of suffering did for us. Perhaps it brought us new compassion, a renewed relationship, a different perspective, greater faith.

Even if one isn’t suffering or grieving, we should know that we aren’t supposed to bloom 365 days of the year. The cycles of the seasons–fluctuating light, different temperatures and humidity–affect us all, plants, animals, and humans. God has made us to need rest and quiet; January is a perfect time for rest and quiet and meditation. Even my reblooming azalea needs a time of dormancy to recharge and revitalize.

I worry now that this lovely azalea has been thrown off her natural cycle of blooming in the spring. When the showy flowers fade, what will happen to her overall health and spindly deer-chewed branches. If I fertilize her now, in what should be her dormant season, will the leaves fill out again or do they need that bright spring light for new growth?

I think this is what has happened to our modern world. We live in a time of 24 hour lights, all season heat and AC, waking in the dark, not going to bed until late. Even now I am typing this at 10:13 p.m. and most every light in the house is on. Excuse me while I go turn some of them off…

We have become modern humans, forgetting our place in the natural world. It’s January in the Northern Hemisphere: we should be slowing down, recharging, resting, sleeping. Reading, praying, meditating… Not sapping our energies with dazzling out-of-season blooms.

It is glorious when it happens, though, isn’t it?

Yinz, y’all, or ye? Yes

The English language is frustrating at times; often, in fact. Can you imagine trying to learn it as a second language?

That you up there? It’s a plural meant to include everyone who is trying to learn to speak English. Although in this case, it might be easier than usual because you can just use you for singular, for plural, for gender neutral, maybe even chop it up and put in your word salad or your soup. (Alphabet, of course….) It’s an all purpose word used for all purposes.

The problem comes when the writer or speaker wants specificity, or at the very least, wants to be clear. Is it you alone or is it you everybody? This is why regional versions like you all, y’all, you’uns, yinz, you’se, or you guys came into existence.

CC BY-SA 2.0 File:Yinz Are Welcome.jpg Created: 2011-10-18

You’uns is derived from the Scottish you ones and is popular in Appalachia where many Scots settled. In Pittsburghese it’s been shortened even further to yinz, and people from the Burgh take pride in calling themselves Yinzers. (On occasion, I’ve heard yinz guys, which certainly ruins the shorthand of it.) There is a store in the Strip District called Yinzers in the Burgh (where yinz can get your black and gold apparel; there’s a Yinzers Barbecue; a Yinzer Pale Ale at the Brew Dog Brewery; and there’s even a Yinzers Bar in Alabama! Where yinz can hang out with y’all

Y’all and You all seem self-explanatory, but actually the phrases are derived from Irish Gaelic ye aw.

And you’se? Well, add an ‘s and get a plural, right? (Argh! Perhaps there is a post on wrong usage’s of apostrophe’s on the horizon’s…) Although, to be fair, I’ve also seen it written youse. (Rhymes with mouse?)

Overwhelmingly, most American English speakers pluralize the you with you guys. (42.53% of the country according to a dialect study done in 2003.) The Urban Dictionary suggests its popularity comes from the egalitarian, non-pretentious American vibe which stretches across ethnicity, geography, and class. But, it also suggests that there is growing unease with the term, because it refers to everyone in male terminology, no matter how casually it is used.

I admit I used to say you guys–but after getting to a certain age, it seems well, kind of like saying Dude. Which is another male usage for generic people that we won’t bother with here.

The problem is that none of these plural you’s are considered standard or formal English. It doesn’t matter so much in written words for one can always avoid the word you and manage to sound intelligent (or pompous); but in dialogue and speech, it is certainly troublesome. When seated at a crowded dinner table and one asks, Would you pass me the turkey? one might get several hands attempting to pass you the big bird. Better yet, ask, Will you please get me a glass of wine? and one might be served several glasses…

This irritation/rumination began on Sunday in church as we were singing our closing hymn. The song was an old fashioned one with plenty of words like Thee, Thou, and Thy in it. Those aren’t usually my favorites, but I liked this one (My Jesus, I Love Thee) and then I wondered how those Olde English speakers knew when to use Thee and when to use Thou (except when writing for rhyming purposes, of course). I thought surely, of all those thee, thou, thy and thine words, there must be a plural…

Turns out, Ye Olde Plural is yep, ye guessed it, Ye.

Ye is a second-person, plural, personal pronoun, spelled in Old English as “ge”. In Middle English and early Early Modern English, it was used as a both informal second-person plural and formal honorific, to address a group of equals or superiors or a single superior.–Wikipedia

So why did a perfectly good, short little word that had an IMPORTANT duty, disappear? I’m sure ye want to know.

There are as many theories as there are people writing about it.

  1. It was a class issue–superiors, equals, workers, the industrial revolution, and all that…
  2. It was a political issue–England vs. France, tu ne sais pas?
  3. It was a religious issue–thou was singular, ye was plural, but how does one address a trinitarian God?
  4. The modern printing press, developed in Germany, did not have the letter þ (which ge began with), and so printers substituted a y, which was the letter used in the word the (like Ye Olde Shoppe), which consequently confused me, you, and you’uns.
  5. It was Shakespeare’s fault.
  6. It was the American’s fault. Which brings us back to numbers 1, 2, & 3…

I was trying to write conclusively about this for you all, (this is and has always been my plural you of choice) but honestly, half way in, I got bored and confused with all the possible explanations, olde pronunciations, and anachronistic socio-cultural idioms. You’se might want to read this article from the New York Times, if y’all are really interested.

Can I just go on record to say that American English desperately needs to have a plural you? One that doesn’t sound as if you’uns just jumped off the farm wagon, you’se aren’t mafia hit men hit people, y’all aren’t just from Miss’ippi, and you guys aren’t just hangin’ on the corner somewhere lookin’ for trouble… It’s actually all these regional English speakers who have come up with answers to this unwieldy problem.

I’m not ready to go back to thee or thy, and ye has been recently usurped by someone we don’t necessarily want to emulate; þe (pronounced ge) would require a redo of all our keyboards; the olde Gaelic ye aw sounds like we’re all horses; surely some of you lot can think of a nice easy word to resolve this terrible crisis of American speech? In the meantime, would you get me a glass of whine wine?