Lights, Camera …

A friend texted the other night to alert us that the aurora was positively dancing! I stepped outside onto our backyard deck, put my fancy schmancy phone camera in “night” mode, pointed it skyward and behold

That last one is positively psychedelic, innit? These are static pics that don’t convey the mesmerizing experience of watching the sky transform shape and color. It really does feel alive in these moments, the entire planet like a living organism. Make that ChatGPT – Ha!

A special Alaskan experience for sure. I will miss it, but stay forever grateful for it.

Pause

Happy Wife is coming along well from two surgeries on her wrist. So then she’s out of the woods? I believe so. I spied her this morning, at the margin of the old growth forest of recovery, appearing a bit fazed but at the same time stronger for the journey. That which doesn’t kill us… The ordeal has caused us to change our travel plans which were set to begin over a week ago. We’d planned to be away for eight weeks, to a place where water is in the liquid phase year round. No, not Hawaii. (How cliche). But not because we harbor any dislike whatsoever for this

Or this

Or this

My god, would you look at us. Where has the time gone. (Inner voice: What did I tell you about rumination!)

Blah blah blah – take a chill pill, willya. I was merely reflecting, not ruminating. There’s a difference you know.

No, instead of Maui, this year we’d planned – over six months ago now – to stay at a nice VRBO very near the Pacific ocean. Similar plan as last year: Close up the house, wave goodbye to winter, ship our car to Seattle, then fly there (w/Black Dog) and enjoy a lazy, multi-day drive together to our destination. Although not Sedona this time, as much as we enjoyed our stay there last year, including the drive back through the land of Happy Uteruses (Uterui?).

Alas, it was not to be this year. The succor of HW took precedence and made long distance travel impractical. But just you wait, this too will pass, and real soon now we intend to set ourselves to a new adventure.

UFO

“According to multiple news sources, the US military shot down a ‘high-altitude object’ that was flying in territorial waters over Alaska on Friday afternoon. The object was ‘roughly the size of a small car’ and was traveling at an altitude of 40,000 feet. The origin and nature of the object are still unknown, but it did not appear to have the maneuverable capability of the Chinese spy balloon that the US shot down last weekend. The US military has located a significant amount of debris from the object and is investigating further.”

Local update: HW and I, along with Black Dog, visited the debris field. I can report that we saw gruesome parts of expired reindeer, a mangled metal runner that appeared to be from a sled of some kind, and a large red cap with a fuzzy white tassel. The investigation is ongoing.

Pigs

Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and only annoys the pig.

Until this morning I did not know with confidence the author of that quote. My good friend and former colleague had rendered it on a simple piece of paper and affixed it to his office door with clear tape. For years it remained there. Over time, as Managers traipsed the carpeted hallway outside his office, parading from one meeting to the next, it became increasingly difficult for them to unsee this aphorism. Eventually, some of them became suspicious of who or what the target of this supposedly witty saying was intended to be – “Is he saying we are the pigs?” As you might imagine, eventually their suspicion gave way to annoyance. The piece of paper with the saying on it was deemed inappropriate by Management. He was commanded to remove it from his office door. My friend complied alright, he relocated the paper with the saying on it to an interior wall in his office. And with that its timeless relevance was revealed. Q.E.D. as they say.

Force Of Nature

Juggernaut

Consider that our defensive player there, the one face to bum with The Greek Freak, is a six foot seven inch two hundred ten pound man. Pretty big, right? And he’s looking straight up into the air, as if he were standing on a runway awaiting the inevitable touchdown of a jumbo jet airliner. Without a snowball’s chance in hell of stopping or even so much as altering its course. Sometimes, young man, it’s best just to get out of the way and let nature run its course 

You may be thinking, wait, Greek Freak started his ascent one step in front of the charity stripe, but the rim (barely visible upper left) is still, like, what, six feet away. No way he dunks that, right? And getting fouled to boot?

Uh huh.

“Flight 34, you’ve been cleared for landing”

An Alter, Alter Ego?

By now the victims of our annual newsletter (>50!) have received and shredded their copy of said newsletter. Then hurriedly washed their hands – “Thank God that’s over with!” Haha. Just you wait. I’ve already set myself to imagining a theme for next year, muahahaha.

Although, yours truly may not be the actual author of next year’s missive. Wait…what? I mean, how would you know. ChatGPT, perhaps you’ve heard of it, is a large language model (LLM) software that has shocked the most skeptical among us with its replies to all manner of interesting prompts. ChatGPT is a mathematical model of language trained on a very, very simple rule – guess the next word. Now, imagine the training set to the model is the entire Internet. That’s a lot of sentences! Turns out ChatGPT, trained on the entire Internet of human writing, with a little reinforcement learning thrown in, is capable of, well, let’s just say it, outright carrying on a conversation with you about pretty much any topic you can imagine as though it were a gifted child. 😲

Didn’t get a head start on that college essay due Monday, Topic: discuss the pros and cons of a burqa ban in non-Muslim countries. No problem! No need to forgo that end-of-week beer bash in the student union in order to get your homework done, no sir, just download the ChatGPT app from the Playstore, type in the topic (prompt), and viola! Sit back, get drunk, and let the app output the best paper! Got a surly project manager gettin’ up in your face over the weekend, one of them annoying over-achiever types, wondering where that code is for Monday’s sprint? And you haven’t even started programming yet? No problem – have ChatGPT write the code! Think I’m kidding

There’s more! ChatGPT may be so convincing as a real human interlocutor, an otherwise bright individual may come away feeling psychologically manipulated by it, to the point where he feels inappropriate romantic feelings toward it (tl;dr folks should scroll to the conclusion). Even all the while intellectually aware it was software – a computer – toward which he expressed said feelings. Creepy, I suppose. Yet who hasn’t collapsed in a helpess puddle of tears when a fictional character in a book goes missing in the last chapter, with no promise of being found again in the sequel. By that comparison, being taken in by an AI’s story-telling to the point it triggers an emotional response doesn’t strike me as all that weird really. On the other hand, were a ChatGPT user to become so emotionally enthralled he’d move to canoodle a computer, then yeah, OK, time to call a therapist.

Now, this blog, even two decades running, nevertheless represents a vanishingly tiny portion of all Internet content. However, a tiny morsel though it may be, just the fact that it’s publicly available on the Internet made it food for thought for ChatGPT. By that I mean ChatGPT, via its training, has learned quite a lot about me. Now, imagine December 31st, 2023 arrives, and I haven’t written word one of the 2023 Nibblet. Maybe I got caught up re-binging Breaking Bad, snuggled on the couch around a Costco-sized tub of white cheese puffs, draining a few bottles of Paso Robles Cabernet, and just completely spaced on my responsibility to family & friends. No worries! I simply open ChatGPT on my phone (by then most likely version 4 (currently 3)), type in my prompt: “Write a witty and engaging annual newsletter in the voice of Rod’s Alter Ego. And viola! – out it comes. All the while our readers victims are never the wiser. 😏

I could even automate addressing the envelopes, affixing postage, delivering the bundle to the post office. Oh yes, this is going to be a very good year, I can feel it already.

And The Band Played On

One feature of many national politicians that’s always amused me – well, annoyed me would be closer to correct – is the tendency to spin a failure as a success (and then magnanimously take credit for it). That recent kerfuffle in Congress, what at first appeared to be a collapse of the orderly transfer of power, no sir, don’t be fooled by the Left or its apologists, that was really Democracy in action! Don’t you see? This is what separates the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA from tyrannical regimes all over the world. Vitriol and revenge = Democracy. Get it? And so pardon us if after fifteen tries, in the wee hours of the morning (also known as OVERTIME people, try it yourself sometime!), something not experienced in this country in over one hundred years is finally complete, that we should enjoy a victory lap.

It’s like frenzied parents bursting through Walmart doors opened at 8:00 am on Black Friday, trampling over bodies of fellow shoppers to get to the must-have Christmas toy for little Suzie before it sells out, then doing high fives at the register – “Wait, what? No, that wasn’t chaos, c’mon, that was freedom-loving shoppers participating in the market economy!”

I had no idea. I guess I should pay closer attention next time to what’s actually going on. 🙄

Hat tip: Drawing by HW

Lazarus

Update on Black Dog. The injury was not to either of his rear legs directly, surprising given that the day after he failed at the Dog Park they wouldn’t support him. X-rays at the clinic revealed a prolonged degenerative spine condition and a point of impingement, which evidently interfered with signals from the brain. Legs don’t move themselves, the brain tells ’em what to do. A standard test to diagnosis this problem is to squeeze the dog’s toes hard, hard enough to get him to yelp. Eventually Chester yelped, “But I had to squeeze pretty damn hard,” the vet said. Days of worrying ensued. Was this it, would he never recover? No – Prednisone for the win! A pretty aggressive dose at that. And man did he respond. After a week of therapy he’s walking again on his own, albeit like a little drunkard in those first few steps after getting up, which he’s also able to do himself now. The past couple of days he’s been eager to go out on short leash walks. I feel like I want to rename him Lazarus. Appetite and thirst, of course, are through the roof, and throughout the ordeal his spirit has remained undiminished. His days of mountain climbing may be over, but it’s not his turn on the rainbow bridge, that’s for sure.

SAD!

I’ll see your polar vortext, atmospheric river, bomb cyclone – whatever – and raise you four feet of snow and ten below. All before 12/15 mind you! Does that make the national news? Of course not. So long as Californians keep getting North Slope oil and market-priced wild salmon appear on dinner plates, who cares about Alaska.

From our front yard

That was after plowing, such as it was. City “planners” were supposedly given advanced warning of the shortage of plows, and people to drive and fix them, weeks before winter began here. Shrug. The mayor and his henchman hate the assembly, and vice-versa. Because it’s dark outside and some of the folks are clinically SAD, even infighting is not unknown. Alas, the people’s business goes undone.

Three closely spaced storms in eleven days dumped about four feet. As much as I’ve seen in December in thirty plus years here. Schools, businesses, pretty much everything, closed for days. Moose are exhausted. Dogs are lethargic. The birds, though, seem undaunted. Outside my office window I see dozens of Bohemian Waxwings and American Robins light on the hoar-frosted branches of our choke cherry trees, plucking frozen berries. And as usual the Ravens thrive. So long as discarded pizza boxes stick out of frozen garbage overflowing curbside trash containers, the Ravens are content. Seriously. I saw one the other day single-beakedly pull a box from the neighbor’s trash, open it, and fly off with a half-eaten slice of Papa Johns.

Then, after the storms moved off, guess what, we get a cold snap, and it’s dark nineteen hours a day now, and HW broke her wrist before Snowmageddon arrived (needed surgery), and – and! – now Black Dog is gimpy. He tried to navigate some deep snow at the Dog Park and just failed completely. Rimadyl and Gabapentin will help him heal, from what I guess is a torn ligament, pulled muscle, inflamed joint, who knows. Ask a dog where it hurts – vapid stare. Breaks our hearts.

The same neighbor who generously shared produce with us hand-delivered another care package. Not really my go to but much appreciated. Just to get up our driveway he needed to follow behind his snow blower. Lol. 1.75 Liter – should tide us over a week or so. But just in case I managed a slog to Costco for additional reinforcements. They recently combined the Pharmacy and Liquor departments, a seasonal decision by store managers to group items by purpose. 😬 Let it snow!

Therapy