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: Blinded by the Light (2019)

A reel of movie film
In Blinded by the Light, the first advice of dad for his son’s entry to a new school is “Stay away from the girls.” Javed, played by Viveik Karla, is a teenager in Luton, Great Britain whose parents emigrated from Pakistan. He longs to escape the nowhere town and hopes college will lead to a career as a writer. He has been an avid writer with years of journals lined up in his room. School can become his road to escape.

Javed’s longtime friend, Matt, played by Dean-Charles Chapman, is a musician whom Javed helps by writing lyrics. Matt’s frustrated with the political stock of Javed’s songs: they’re not performable. He still holds out hope for Javed’s lyrics getting better.

Javed’s father, played by Kulvinder Ghir, is an immigrant from Pakistan. He is the center of the household and manages the household’s money. The traditional role of the father is a struggle for Javed’s father when circumstances change. Unlike in Fiddler on the Roof, the family is not torn apart by events beyond their control. However, events beyond their control such as the recession under Margaret Thatcher still make them stretch and evolve.

Javed meets Roops at school. Roops, played by Aaron Phagura, gives Javed some Bruce Springsteen cassettes. The songs revolutionize Javed’s attitude and fill him with power. He feels that the music speaks directly to him. Springsteen puts words to his feelings and cinematically, the words are visually swirling around Javed as he listens.

Central to the progression of Javed as a writer is his teacher Ms. Clay, played by Hayley Atwell. She scolds him for not sharing with the world the raw emotion in his writing when he discards his poems. He follows her inspiration and writes in the school paper and then a local newspaper. Javed’s cultural background and knowledge of Urdu allow him to write a powerful story about the community’s mosque.

While the movie isn’t exactly a musical, music has a central place to the story. The movie is full of the angst and joy of youth. Javed and Roops go to New Jersey after he wins a writing contest. During the trip, the friends make a pilgrimage to visit Bruce Springsteen’s hometown sites.

One of the struggles that Javed’s family faces is the hostility of some people in their community toward Pakistani immigrants. Javed’s family faces those indignities with grace and do not become bitter when life becomes more difficult.

Blinded by the Light is an melange of conflicting cultures. The Pakistani community, the people hostile to them, students at the high school, and Javed’s friends all mix together into a scene of hope that is inspired by Bruce.

Left handed

Green coffee cup
A couple of months ago, I started doing journaling with my left hand. Before bed, I would write one page with my right hand and the reverse with my left. I’m not ambidextrous. I was wondering whether it would access a different part of my brain. I can’t prove that one way or the other. However, because it made me write more slowly, it made changes, if only because of that.

Last week, I got the clever idea of writing the journaling alternating hands. Write one word with the right, the next with the left, then with the right and so on. This style I can definitely tell that it’s different.

I have more of an idea of the whole sentence and things tend to flow together better. I also used the technique to write a poem and it came out so that it didn’t need so much editing. (Often when I write a poem, I take a long time editing and reediting which is tedious.

My left hand isn’t as legible as my right, although it’s getting better. My right hand’s writing isn’t that legible to begin with. lol