From the red book…

They say I’m a good cook. I try new dishes. Just tell me the ingredients and often I can figure it out. I’m always learning.

Sometimes my mom wasn’t a very good cook when I was little. Sometimes the scrambled eggs had shell fragments. But once I grew up, I have some favorite dishes that she made. Her pot roasts had awesome carrots onions and potatoes. The chuck roast was ready to tear into and I would cover it all with gravy. I always put pepper on top.

We had a beverage we called pond scum. It was a couple different Kool-Aid packets with 7-Up. Usually, it was only for parties. Another dish we had that I loved was “beany goop” which was a casserole with different kinds of beans in it and a breaded topping.

One of my friends says that she has to follow a recipe religiously careful. I’m more flexible. I don’t think I’m a cooking heretic. I just have things I make.

The old kitchen had shiny copper titles on the wall. There was a window over the sink looking out at the field and the mountain behind it. The dinner table was off to the left and we had a lot of family dinners there. I don’t remember much specific besides my insistence that “no singing at the table” was a rule.

I get a little sad when I think of those days. We lived far away. The school bus took us in to school. I sat in the middle on the right. It let me watch the roads go by and I could stay out of the target of the mean kids.

In the winter, snow drifts piled high. I liked playing. We would lob snowballs at the trees. The weather never seemed radical back then. We got rain when we needed it and the snow was not oppressive. For some reason, I don’t remember shoveling snow. We didn’t have a sidewalk—living out in the country, there wasn’t any point.

I remember the snow cones with real snow. We would dribble maple syrup on them. It was nice.

I’m a late bloomer in my cooking. When I was in school, I didn’t cook much. I don’t remember anything to remark on. I was glad that I could eat in the cafeteria. Sometimes I have nightmares that the cafeteria would be out or that I got there too late. My cooking now might be a subconscious wish to never be late.

My First ChatGPT

I dialed into ChatGPT today for the first time. I was pretty happy with my experience. I didn’t intend to bang on my shiny new toy with a mallet but rather use it as something to enhance my life. Thus, I didn’t intend to expose its political biases or trick it into acting foolish, inappropriate, or to provoke controversy.

However, it’s easy to want to probe the boundaries. One thing I did in that vein was to ask for its favorite tongue twister. It gave me one that was pretty easy. It used phrasing that I took to mean that this was a “classic” tongue twister that might be well known. The tool also mentioned that since it was just a language model, it didn’t have a personal preference. (That’s the gist of its disclaimer, not the exact wording.)

Perhaps, going back to my first experiences with Siri, I could wonder whether there were easter eggs hidden in ChatGPT. Siri was obviously programmed to have clever answers to certain stock questions. Why would I admire this tool if it had the same tricks? I would be disappointed rather than impressed if they were there.

After getting used to it, I decided to use it for something useful. I’ve been writing some JavaScript code lately and I wondered whether it could help me learn more about that.

I directed the conversation to JavaScript generator functions and async functions. It gave useful information. For one question, the code it generated didn’t match the explanation. However, the concept’s description was accurate, and the coding error was obvious. When I continued questioning about other features of JavaScript, I opened a tab and used DuckDuckGo to point me to a article to confirm its description. I also got more thoroughly vetted information there.

I used that additional info to direct the conversation further. I also turned to to see whether one language feature was commonly available in different browsers. I was impressed that ChatGPT was explicit on reporting the different versions of ECMAScript involved. That helped identify when certain syntax was added to the language standard. Some of what it explained went over my head. I need to use those features in real code and read the explanations again. Also, it assumed I understood a related feature better than I actually do.

To me ChatGPT is not a toy. It can be played with, certainly. But so can a can of whipped cream. I don’t learn much playing with either. Eventually I’ll knock off the valve or make a mess to clean up. I’d rather learn how to use it efficiently. The language model is not god-like or without flaws. A word processer’s spell checker is not without flaws either, so I learned how to use it efficiently and moved on from there.

When I was done, I tried to capture the discussion by copying the text and pasting it into Word, but the code that it generated didn’t paste properly. The line breaks in the code were lost. Another problem was that I was pasting white text in a document with a white background. When I went to Acrobat Pro and pasted it using the Edit Text tool, the pasted text came out correctly except that the font changed for the code.

If I represent something that ChatGPT does as if it were my own work, that’s simple plagiarism. It might appear to pass when writing a blog post or two, but a professional writer shouldn’t use it as a substitute for his or her own work. Even using it to improve a paragraph needs more effort. I should use my own words instead of mimicking ChatGPT’s robotic syntax.

I asked it to improve three of paragraphs here. It didn’t understand what I was trying to emphasize. One “improvement” was such a mess that I couldn’t use it at all. The other two were far from my normal style–too formal with a stilted vocabulary–and had to be overhauled. Mostly, I used them as an inspiration for further editing.

My attitude can be to treat it more as a thesaurus than as a copywriter-for-hire. You have to know what you’re doing when you use a thesaurus.

Review: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022)

Misunderstood by the wider world, Wakanda is a nation set apart in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They hide their super-human technology from the rest of the world. In earlier films, they had offered to help the world. However, this offer that was scoffed at due to their feigned poverty and backwardness. Despite their monopoly on technology derived from the precious mineral, Vibranium, this film finds their technological supremacy threatened by a new power.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever has a struggle between the Wakandan’s and the powerful new antagonist. The new power is willing and able to kill Wakandans and any other enemy while, simultaneously, demanding that their own existence be kept secret. The Wakandan royalty is torn as more of their people are killed. The conflict forces the Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and the technological genius Shuri (Letitia Wright) to choose either mercy and honor or vengeance and destruction. Riri (Dominique Thorne) adds fuel to the fire with her own technological genius.

In the earlier film, Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman was T’Challa, the Black Panther. Since Boseman died in real life while the film was in development, the producers decided to not recast him and instead honor his memory. The Black Panther’s legacy overshadows this film and his memory animates the Wakandan people.

Wakanda’s superiority has also evolved through the mystical influence of the ancestral rulers of Wakanda. They provide guidance to the succession of Black Panthers via visions at crucial moments. When T’Challa’s daughter, Shuri, is faced with the reality of his death, she reacts with anger and regret that she couldn’t save him. She is not willing to participate in the rituals surrounding his passing and her disbelief leads her to deny the ancestor’s influence.

The film has more explicit violence than many other MCU films. The number of people that died in the film set aside some of the conventions in earlier films that limited on-screen violence. Perhaps the violence seems justified because of the depth of conflict in the film. From the beginning where a military research vessel was attacked by an unknown force until the extended battle at sea, death runs through the whole film. Rather than eliding the actual deaths, more fatalities were depicted so that the Wakandan’s might signal virtue by saving some enemies.

I missed several opportunities to see the film in a theatre but finally watched it on Disney+. The story was tense with the civilizations wrangling with each other. It seemed that the antagonist Namor (Tenoch Huerta) had his powers evolve as the film needed additional tricks to keep the story moving forward. The Wakandans also exhibit new technologies as needed. The film posits a dichotomy between honor and vengeance. When given choices, the film offers the question as to whether the Wakandan people or their enemies are more powerful and which are more worthy.

I went to bed early again

I went to bed early again. The rain was coming down and I didn’t want to push through the cold world. Sunny days are long gone. I have been angry for so long.

Why? Earlier the sky was blue. I  saw the trees get colder but their life-force kept them experiencing every day—each as the other.

I am pleased when I see a bird dancing in the sky. What I hope for is that I could take my own flight. I can’t stand for the changes to delay. Anything is going to be better. I need plenty of time and then I could take my own flight. I wait so that I can enjoy the fruits of all of the life around me.

The alarm was raucous today. I have plenty to say but I don’t want to get up. Wait for me please. I’ll be in your arms of love soon.

I write the song in a strange key. My life skips some tones. It lands hard on the remainder. Everything is an opening and even the chorus is open like the sky.

I have colors to paint the story. I choose the ones that are happy. Life is hard because I don’t know how far I must continue. I learn from the book and look at its margins. They point my brush and I let my hand follow.

If only there were a new beginning. I know everyone would see it coming. I can be frozen by a spectral light. I am walking through the corner of the garden. I know I could build a monument that everyone will admire. The trees sound softly now as they sway with their private songs.

I draw hope from deep in my soul. I am looking for yet another morning. Night passes slowly, too slowly, when I have long dreams. But those dreams show me how to live; how to get ready for life again.

My words are hard to say. I wonder why. I have no purpose today. Walking through the yard, I was slipping within my heart. I get disoriented and confused. It is not my fault that I have been sick.

The words everyone has to say are hard for me to hear. I could only understand their secrets if the rain would not hide them. The sun will rise if I wait. It could only push away the dark moments briefly. I walk out and no one sees me. I am not invisible but I just can’t leave any images about the way I live.

They say tomorrow will be cold. I will wear my coat and hat. Perhaps they will remember that the shadow does not have to come back.

All vegan steroids

MattiasA from DeviantArt has amazing intricate drawing drawn from a strange world that he shares freely with his followers.

The most recent one “Food and Music” has a few items that are intriguing, but not something I would try (or anyone should, actually)

  • All vegan steroids
  • Prawn juice
  • Acorn paste

He accompanied the food’s drawing with amazing musical instruments. More realistic than the food, at least for Mattias’s world.

  • Mozart playing a synthesizer
  • Counting crows (The avian kind)
  • A bull playing guitar

There are plenty more. I follow him because he is so creative and whimsical. He often shares drawings of mysterious transportation opportunities and businesses names worthy of more than a few laughs.

A New Year of Poetry

2022 ended with a milestone. I published my 400th poem on Patreon.

If you’d like to see them, goto

I plan to continue the series for 2023 starting with “401. Bounce.”

I think you would enjoy reading them. A subscription on the Patreon is $1/month which includes poetry that I haven’t released anywhere else as well as open access poetry.

Letting Go

My address book grows and shrinks.

Sometimes I’m adding new contacts as I expand my social circle. At other times I’m removing people that I don’t have a connection with anymore.

Being social, it’s uncomfortable to remove people from the list. A lesser loss is when I remove a thread from my texting app. In that case, the connection is still there, but only tenuously. People that don’t have a thread going can be forgotten and the relationship that is already withering might finally die.

A sadder removal from the contacts and address book happens when someone I know has passed. When I remove them, the memories will fade, and I will think of them less and less. Perhaps, it’s a way that I can honor their memory by leaving them in the list. For special people, I might want to keep them listed as a sort of memorial.

My paper address book has six names per page. When all of the addresses aren’t valid anymore, I can take it out and discard it. It’s another way to let go of memories. The paper form is more permanent than a list in a phone but eventually the information gets out of date and people leave my life.

Letting go of people can be solidified by a funeral or ceremony. For a few friends that I lost track of over the years, I found out later that they’ve passed on. It makes me sad that I didn’t find out until years later.

I don’t want to let go of people with the same attitude that I have when I’m throwing away a dried-up pen. I think people deserve more consideration than that which is part of why ghosting seems malevolent to me. However, putting a piece of paper in the trash and removing the information from my phone can be just as easy.

Letting go is a transition that can take many forms. Loss is a part of the human condition and having fond memories of someone can make the loss feel meaningful.

The Wildcard Day

52 weeks works out to be 364 days. Since a calendar year has 365 or 366 days, one could replace the current calendar with one that has one day a year denoted as a wildcard that won’t have a day of the week. That would make the weeks line up the same every year.

If the change would be made next year, this is what the calendar would look like for February and March, (as it would every year going forward.)

Instead of February 28 being a Tuesday, it has no day of the week anymore. The next day, March 1, takes the opened-up Tuesday slot. Every other day after that shifts left a day. On a leap year, the 29th would also have no day of the week.

From March 2023 to February 2024, an old-style Wednesday would be a Tuesday. From March 2024 to February 2025, the old Wednesday would be Sunday. It would continue from year to year that the day of the week would be altered by varying amounts.

The biggest advantage of this arrangement is that the same calendar could be used every year.

That’s pretty much the only advantage.

Federal holidays would get frozen on a specific day of the year. That would be nice because the holidays shifted to Monday would be consistent. But, if a holiday’s natural date now ends up on Wednesday every year, it would be messy for picking how to assign the paid day off.

Problems will show up really quickly. In addition to the Gregorian calendar, there are other calendars in common use such as the calendar used in Islamic countries and the Hebrew calendar. They won’t line up with the new calendar directly. Awildcard day would not fit consistently. If some arrangement could not be made, different calendars would give the same date different days of the week.

I don’t think an arrangement could be made, but it’s an idea. So far, not a good idea, but still an idea.

The next problem is that holidays that appear on a specific day of the week but not the same date would be hard to compute. There’s a formula to calculate the date of Easter and related special days. It would quit working. Easter is on a different week each year, but always on Sunday, so the week might be hard to form a consensus over.

Also, that defeats the goal of being able to use the same calendar every year.

The Hebrew calendar is very carefully designed so that special days, as appropriate, are on the sabbath or not on the sabbath automatically. That precision would be ruined.

The computer algorithms for day of the week would go up in smoke too. Date calculations start by counting the number of days from an epoch date, often January 1, 1970. One takes that count and reduce it modulo seven to get the day of the week. Breaking that rule would make the Y2K bug seem mild by comparison.

Honestly, the problems caused by this idea overwhelmingly make it infeasible to follow. It’s a simple idea that isn’t compatible with life as we know it.

But…. maybe we could make April 1 as the wild card day just once to see if we like it???

Landscaping Success Story

For several years I’ve known that my lilac bush has had some shrubs hiding within it. If I needed proof, in September, I saw a Rose of Sharon blossoming in the middle of it.

Rose of Sharon hiding in lilac bush

I knew there were also some maples and a couple other bushes intertwined. I had despaired of getting rid of them because they were so similar to the lilac branches and hard to identify.

However, I had a lucky break when I went out to do some other landscaping.

Most of the leaves of the lilac were gone but the other bushes still had their leaves. That let me pick out the branches to get rid of without damaging the lilac.

Lilac bush after other shrubs removed

All of the green amidst the branches were weed shrubs that I wanted to get rid of.

It didn’t take too long to clip off all of the unwanted branches. I wasn’t able to get rid of them permanently. They’re pretty well established with big roots. However, I consider it a win to be able to cut them back as much as I did. I wasn’t expecting that.

Lilac bush after other shrubs removed.

This is what the lilac bush looked like after I was done.

It was a success that I wasn’t expecting.

My original goal for the exercise was to clip off all of the dead stems from my peonies which I was able to do in a separate part of the yard.

In the middle of the peonies is a sumac bush that I’m trying to discourage. I didn’t see it this week. I cut it back a lot not long before the weather turned cold, so it might not be able to grow back until spring.

All through the summer, my landscaping and garden would have different shrubs starting to grow. I would dig down around their roots as far as I could and then pull them up. I think I was successful at killing most of those before they got too big.

Walking down the dirt road

The story about walking home on the dirt road from where the bus dropped us off is hard to explain. Why didn’t the bus drop us off at home? We always said that the road was 0.7 miles. There were a couple of interesting sights along the way. One was a pond with a willow tree. I remember seeing dragonflies there. There was also a swamp that would wash out a culvert every year so that it blocked the road. I wonder how dad got to work when it was closed. I remember the hilly path as we walked home.

I went to only a few parties when I was in school. We were always isolated and far from people. I don’t know why that was. One sister was not receptive to discussing the topic when I brought it up. Maybe it isn’t that uncommon, but I don’t think it helped me. I don’t dwell on that because it will only make me sad.

One time I did go to a Halloween party. I made a pumpkin costume out of chicken wire and papier-mache. I was fully covered with the costume. It only had a slot in the stem to see out of. It was painted orange and green like the great pumpkin. We went to a party where I was ominous and chasing around the radio personality for a while.

I never really ran and was never athletic in school. Being isolated, there wasn’t anyone to play basketball or soccer with. Maybe I was too engrossed with the encyclopedia. I don’t remember being asked. I had a softball glove but never played much… maybe with Dad a few times.

I like playing with water, so I was happy when the spring rains came. The clay soil would have water accumulate below it so that you could make it squish and squirt. I liked making little rivers to move the water around. We didn’t play marbles when the ground was wet.

We lived between two small mountains. The trees must have been pretty in autumn. There were lots of maples, being Vermont. In addition, our house had a maple and an elm tree. The elm tree eventually died from Dutch elm disease. We cut the tree down when it was dead. A cub scout project was to plant some trees. I planted 50 maple trees. We brought the last two with us when we moved to Indiana. The final survivor was moved an additional time when the family left the dairy farm. Now it’s growing where my parents used to live near Kendallville.

It was nice that we had such beauty around the home so that I have some nice memories.

Photo by Marta Wave: Pexels