Tuesday, December 6, 2022

In which I anoint myself a prophet...

 About a year ago, I wrote a short blog post entitled "The Inanity of Headlines" in which I raged against the canned headlines that have become a never ending affliction to the reader.  At the end, as part of my grand ending, I, more in jest than anything, opined sonorously:

"Somewhere, I suspect, creeps a semi-sentient AI, collating all the headlines into a giant data pile, from which it will pull-out and generate endless fake news items to feed the public's addiction to the internet. 

One Headlinator to Rule Them All!"
I didn't realize that barely one year later, the Headlinator would arrive, with the not-so-rolling-off-the-tongue name of ChatGPT. There have been a spate of articles (by human reporters and journalists, presumably...hopefully??) lamenting the demise of the humanities, as by all accounts, this AI is apparently capable of generating from simple prompts or rubric descriptions the deathless prose of dissertations and theses that once took harried college students days and weeks to produce.
As the headlines become even more clickbaity in hopes that I will open the article, I scan through the news feed, hoping to find the one article that doesn't scream "Written largely by an AI", but it is becoming a futile search these days. 
I didn't have 'Becoming a prophet' written on my 2022 bingo card, but there it is...


Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Doe and Fawn

 The herd of five deer trotted into the woods behind, jumping lithely over the stream, walking into the yet leafless tree stand. I watched as one, slightly more ungainly than the others dipped her head to sip from the clear waters. The spring had its source somewhere close by, so it must have been cleaner than water further downstream.

A few weeks later, and the brown trunks were all covered with vivid green leaves, as a heat wave took over the final days of spring. Gone were the pitiful lines of thin young trees, now replaced by a dazzling array of greens. The stream was barely visible under the shrubs and the ugliness of the gravel piles and black landscape fabric (leftovers from when the developer remolded the area for construction) was mostly hidden by the freshly regrown shrubs - rye grass, crown vetch, birdsfoot deervetch, cowvetch...Their names roll off the tongue like an incantation of witches, warding off the dry brown of the glyphosated slopes on another property line backing up to a neighbor's lawn.

In all of that, a splash of a healthy brown with golden undertones. Dark eyes and black nose nudging at the multiflora rose bushes at water's edge.The ungainly doe was back, sipping on the clear water of the stream. She showed up religiously, every afternoon, munching on her snack, with one ear cocked up for any trouble.

Late one morning, a rustling of brown in the trees to the left of the screen door. More golden brown flashes in the bushes. I hunted for the binoculars to take a closer look, and lo and behold- a pair of tiny fawns nursing next to the doe. One stood up on ungainly legs, while the doe licked the other one all over. The babies were born!

Much excitement over the next few days as the doe came back every few hours to nurse the fawns. We would grab the binoculars to try and catch a glimpse of the babies, but never succeeded in seeing both of them together after that first glimpse.

The next time I looked, the deer had just a single fawn in that location, leaving me wondering what happened to the other fawn. As it turns out, does often split the pairs, it is a tactic that allows at least one fawn to survive if there are predators nearby. While black bears may have retreated to more mountainous parts, and wolves are long gone, we have seen the occasional coyote in the vicinity, so no doubt those form the primary predator that preys on young fawns.

Several weeks have now passed, and the deer can be seen every day with one of her fawns in tow, leaping around the bushes, near the neighborhood retention pond, trotting across the lawns. The other day, I came upon her as I went for a morning walk. She looked me in the eye and stomped, warning me off. I quietly crossed to the other side of the road, best not to offend a mother trying to protect her young ones. Mother deer are as much to be feared as mother bears!

 Update: A few weeks after the separation, the twin fawns are now large enough to be reunited. So we have been treated to watching the siblings playing with each other near the stream, while the mother watches over them, while grazing on shrubs nearby.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Mother Tree

 Our backyard has a steep slope down to the little brook, with a large stand of trees on the slope up to the road after it. The tree stand was marketed to us as 'woods' in the property developer's literature. To be frank, we saw little of the trees during the home construction, and were even less impressed with the view of a bunch of scraggly tree trunks after the home was built and ready to move in.

The trees are quite tall, most of them in the 65-70 ft range, with branches that almost seem to intertwine in a weird dance of  "Here is my space, and there is yours".  Some of the trees have roots partially exposed, even with the many layers of decayed leaves that cover them. There is one tree with gnarled roots, closer to the stream than the rest, with a dark hollow near the bottom. A groundhog makes its home there, and it occasionally toddled out in the spring sunshine to feast on the shrubs near water's edge.

As the trees started to put out their fresh greenery, which first appeared as a thin sprinkling of pale green, we planned a four day trip as a rather unintended vacation, driving many miles away and leaving the new house for the first time in a few months. The old tree still stood, with its branches devoid of leaves, while new life burst into all the taller companions. 

Back after our vacation, a glance out of the window showed us a world transformed: brilliant green leaves on all the trees, while baby green leaves tentatively peeped out on the old tree. The stream's banks were overrun with exuberant green of shrubbery and yellow sprinkles of cinquefoil, an unsightly white storage shed in the neighbor's yard has vanished behind the wall of greenery, as have the crisscrossed trunks of fallen trees that looked depressingly decrepit in the winter dullness.

Mother Tree stands finally putting out her leaves. Now it is her turn to be helped with nourishment from her children around her, even as she had helped sustain them in their infancy and youth.


More on the concept of  'mother tree', or 'hub tree'

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Brook in the Backyard

We have a brook in the backyard of the new house. Or perhaps, it would be better termed a rill, being too narrow to even qualify as a proper brook. It seems to originate about 50 feet uphill from where our immediate neighbor's property ends, with little natural steps that let the clear water catch the early morning sunlight as it rills over the channel.

A spring source, maybe. The water appears clean enough that a local herd of five does (or perhaps I should call them the Doe Quintet) come by frequently for a sip or two, when the water is no longer muddy from the frequent rains that we have been having this year.

I had thought of adding a birdbath, in order to attract the birds nesting in the nearby trees to a closer vantage point where I could see them, much like in the old house. But considering the proximity of the brook, I feel that might be a useless endeavor. Or maybe not, birds do like to splash in shallow pools rather than running water, even if they prefer to sip their drinks from clear streams. 

Except for the mallard duck pair, which I have seen swimming around in a small section of the brook, where there is a widening. I am hoping that they have nested in the vicinity, and will be treated to Mother duck and her brood sailing around later in the summer.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

10 Things to know about Hacking Life

 ...or other tips that you never needed.

1.Never click on a headline that says " X things to know about...."

2. Even well written articles by journalists in news sites of note these days have surreptitiously inserted shout-outs to some product link or the other. It is mandated by the advertisers who paid for their product to be promoted, and is likely paying about half the monthly salary of said journalist.

3.Be careful of what you search for on any search engine, even the ones that say they will keep your searches private. There is no such thing as privacy on the internet, and any search for even innocuous stuff like "Home remedies for colds" is likely to result in annoying ads for pharmaceuticals and paid ads that ask anxiously "You have the sniffles, but could it be cancer? Click on the link to find out more".

4.Don't stress out about masking or not. Do as you wish (masked or unmasked), live, eat, breathe, talk. You can do it!

Remember that we were doing all that without any problems not just two years ago. Covid is present, just like the flu, but by now you will either have had it, or been vaccinated against it. Trust your body and immune system to fend off whatever strain is circulating (probably too recent to be covered by the booster shots). 

5.Exercise every day, and get out for walks in the sunshine, even if the weather is too cold or too hot. Nothing like a spot of activity to freshen the body and mind.

6.Eat well, mostly fresh or freshly cooked foods,  and savor every bite of whatever it is that you are eating. 

7. Never let laundry pile up, or leave regular chores undone or unfinished. It might sound like your mother's advice, for all I know, it might very well be the exact same words that she uttered the last time you visited, frequent or not.

8.  Rediscover the art of reading, especially old books (i.e. not written in the last 5-10 years, much of which is forgettable dreck, unfortunately). Rediscover hobbies that require you to work with your hands, as well. There is nothing like using your fingers for activities other than typing on a keyboard or composing texts on a phone.

9.Value truth over kindness. Kindness is about not hurting someone's feelings, but truth is an absolute. It might be possible to be kind while speaking the truth, but the truth isn't always kind, and in that case, truth will always win as a reflection of reality.

10. See 1. again.