Linda Holmes nails it in her response to Apple’s crass iPad advertisement.

But these are not practical items to begin with. Nobody owns a piano because it’s practical; it’s about the least practical thing you can own. It can wreck your floor. It goes out of tune. And if you happen to get a new place, you don’t just need movers for it; you may need special movers. You don’t own a piano to get from point A to point B in the most direct way you can. You own a piano for the reason we had one in my house: a person plays it. Someone sits down, as my mother did, and plays the “Maple Leaf Rag,” and you can hear the pedals lightly squeak, and you can watch hands skitter across keys, and of course you are listening to music — but also, those are your mother’s hands.

In my case, the piano’s owner was Leta and the player was Grandmother Madeline.

And in my case, the piano was in the Northern Michigan University dormitory lounge and the player was Audrey from Rockford, Ill., and the song was indeed “Maple Leaf Rag.”

Some links: 100

  • Walter Shawlee, slipstick reseller, has passed.

    Over time, his customers included a weather station in Antarctica, where many electronic gadgets could not take the cold; photo editors responsible for adjusting image sizes (they like slide rules for their clear displays of different values for the same ratio); an archaeologist who found that calculators got too dusty to work properly during digs; the drug company Pfizer, which gave away slide rules as gifts during a trade show; slide rule enthusiasts in Afghanistan and French Polynesia; and “guys from NASA,” Mr. Shawlee told Engineering Times in 2000.

  • Sorry, overwintering turtles don’t breathe through their butts.

    The notion that cloacal gas exchange helps North American turtles survive long winters trapped under the ice is pervasive in pop science, but to date, there is no solid evidence that hidden-necked turtles use cloacal gas exchange. The skin and mouth lining are where gas exchange happens during winter hibernation.

  • The Old English for spider is gange-wæfre (“walker-weaver”).
  • From Zack Stanton for McSweeney’s, “Morrissey or Trump?”

    This could only happen to me / Who has been through anything like this?

  • Guest column for Washington Business Journal by Alan Berube and Tracy Hadden Loh: “Caps and Wizards moving to Virginia isn’t ‘regionalism.’ It’s gaslighting.”

Some links: 99

Mid-winter trip reports

I assisted at Elklick Woodlands Natural Area Preserve for a couple of work days. (More days to come? subject to scheduling.) Park Authority staff are actively managing woody vegetation within several deer exclosures in order to re-establish and extend a rare forest community, known as northern hardpan basic oak-hickory forest. Thousands of trees were planted about five years ago, and those that have survived are about knee height now.

to be trimmedThe management is fairly aggressive: both native and non-native trees, all of them faster growing than the oaks and hickories, are cut back to the ground, for instance these Virginia Pines (Pinus virginiana) which would soon shade out the white oak at the right of the photo.

oak saplingMany of the trees that we’re nurturing are still very small, and have dropped all their leaves at this time of the year. So flags make it a lot easier to find them.

I’m also back at The Nature Conservancy’s Fraser Preserve, now equipped with a new tool: an Extractigator Junior, generically known as a weed wrench. For non-native invasive shrubs like Rosa multiflora and Berberis thunbergii, we need to remove as much of the root as possible. A garden fork and some steady pulling will accomplish this, but a weed wrench gives you some mechanical advantage and is easier on the muscles. The genius of these gizmos is that no springs are involved, so it’s unlikely that you’re going to mash a digit.

A composite of a couple of roses that I pulled: Dropping the tool into position.into position

Closing the jaws around the stems and beginning to pull back on the handle.jaws closed

The extracted crown of the plant.extracted

I’m still finding my touch with the tool. With smaller plants, I have a tendency to snap off the stem rather than pull it out with the roots. The Junior weighs just under ten pounds, so it’s luggable from Fraser’s parking area to our work sites.

Ohio 2023: 1

car 338 boardingcar 325 departingThe first leg of my Ohio road trip brought me to Cleveland and environs and, after much negotiation of time slots, entailed lunch with Aunt D. and dinner with long-lost girlfriend C. In between meals, I had some downtime so I rode the Red Line out to the airport and back. I was a little surprised that the rolling stock was rather light and that power came from a pantograph, but since the Red Line runs in its own ROW, most people would call it a subway/metro/rapid transit. Non-rush hour trains consisted of only two cars each. The West 25th-Ohio City station is looking rather scruffy; there seems to be some confusion over how to spell “Windermere.”

pleasant surprisedownstreamIn the morning, I took a quick loop at Brandywine Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, a surprisingly vigorous water feature. At right, the creek looking back upstream in the direction of the falls.

pathology 1pathology 2I found my first clear example of Beech Leaf Disease, which has just been found recently in Virginia. Close by (and perhaps related), an infestation of Beech Blight Aphid (Grylloprociphilus imbricator). You really need a video to fully appreciate these tiny sap slurpers.

Some links: 93

Some links: 92

  • Ted Williams puts in a good word for—euyurrgh—sea lampreys.

    In their native habitat, marine lampreys are “keystone species” supporting vast aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems….

    Environmental consultant Stephen Gephard, formerly Connecticut’s anadromous-fish chief, calls lampreys “environmental engineers” as important to native ecosystems as beavers.

  • Rhitu Chatterjee reports on a low tech-low cost (less than two bucks) intervention that can dramatically reduce maternal deaths due to postpartum hemorrhage.
  • May Truong’s photos, Sarah Lyall’s words: Striker, the Samoyed who never won Westminster’s best in show. But he still pauses to strike a pose.
  • This is why I leave little notes: T. Rex reckons with the afterlife.
  • One more bit of the hot type era is gone: the New York Times is dispensing with datelines. Hanaa’ Tameez has the writeup.

Try again

Round 2 with ChatGPT. Now with more disclaimers. Still can’t/won’t read HTML <meta name="author" /> tags. And apparently Cain/Chandler/Wilder plagiarized HDT.

DAVID. are you familiar with the blog A Honey of an Anklet?

CHATGPT. As an AI language model, I am familiar with a vast amount of information including websites and blogs, including “A Honey of an Anklet”. However, I don’t have personal preferences or opinions on any specific blog or website as I don’t have personal feelings or biases.

D. what can you tell me about it?

C. “A Honey of an Anklet” is a blog that focuses on natural history, ecology, and environmental issues. The author of the blog is Robert Bergeson, who is based in the Washington DC area. The blog features posts on a wide range of topics related to the natural world, including birding, botany, insects, and environmental policy. The name of the blog comes from a quote by writer and naturalist Henry David Thoreau, who referred to a “honey of an anklet” as a small but significant detail of the natural world that one might overlook if not paying attention. Overall, “A Honey of an Anklet” is a well-written and informative blog for anyone interested in the natural world and environmental issues.

A new footer reads, “ChatGPT may produce inaccurate information about people, places, or facts.” In other words, ChatGPT is not a reliable source of information.

J’ai pété

First mucking about with ChatGPT. Not bad, not good. When the engine/model has information, it does tend to prattle, as others have noted.

DAVID. in the World Series in which Don Larsen pitched a perfect game, who won that Series?

CHATGPT. Don Larsen pitched a perfect game in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers. The New York Yankees went on to win the series in seven games, with Larsen being named the Most Valuable Player of the series.

D. Who caught him?

C. Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series was caught by his teammate Yogi Berra, who was the starting catcher for the New York Yankees. Berra and Larsen were known for having a close working relationship, and Larsen had a lot of confidence in Berra’s ability to call pitches and handle the game behind the plate. After the game, Larsen famously jumped into Berra’s arms in celebration.

D. Who was the last batter?

C. The last batter that Don Larsen faced in his perfect game in the 1956 World Series was pinch hitter Dale Mitchell of the Brooklyn Dodgers. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, Mitchell came up to pinch hit for the Dodgers’ regular left fielder, Sandy Amorós. Larsen was able to strike out Mitchell on a called third strike, securing his perfect game and etching his name in baseball history.

D. Are you sure that Mitchell pinch hit for Amoros? The way I read the box score, he pinch hit for Sal Maglie.

C. I apologize for the error in my previous response. You are correct that Dale Mitchell pinch hit for the pitcher Sal Maglie in the bottom of the ninth inning for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Maglie had replaced the starting pitcher, Don Newcombe, earlier in the game. Mitchell struck out on three pitches to end the game and complete Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series. Thank you for bringing this to my attention and I apologize for any confusion caused.

Maglie pitched nine innings in this Game 5. Newcombe was chased in Game 2, pitching only 1.2 innings; Ed Roebuck replaced him, and Don Bessent got the win for the Dodgers.

Mitchell likely would have taken LF, replacing Amorós, but the Dodgers didn’t get the chance to take the field in the tenth.

The engine/model has a skin-deep understanding of this blog. Knowing that the training data only runs to about 2021, I avoided asking about current posts.

DAVID. are you familiar with the blog titled “A Honey of an Anklet”?

CHATGPT. Yes, I am familiar with the blog titled “A Honey of an Anklet”. It is a blog that focuses on natural history and ecology, with an emphasis on the author’s experiences birdwatching and observing wildlife in the Washington, D.C. area. The author, John B. Nelson [Ed.: Who he?], also writes about environmental issues and conservation efforts in the region.

D. Nice try guessing the author’s name. I am the author. My name is David L. Gorsline.

C. I apologize for the mistake, David. Thank you for correcting me. I’m glad to hear from the author of “A Honey of an Anklet”.

D. Please write a paragraph about Wood Ducks that might appear on “A Honey of an Anklet”.

C. Sure, here’s a paragraph about Wood Ducks that might appear on “A Honey of an Anklet”:

Wood Ducks are among the most striking of North American waterfowl. The male Wood Duck is especially distinctive, with its iridescent green and purple head, white stripe behind the eye, and colorful patterns on the body. Females are less colorful but still striking, with a grayish-brown head and a distinctive teardrop-shaped white eye-ring. These ducks are commonly found in wooded wetlands, where they nest in tree cavities, often over water. In recent years, conservation efforts have helped boost populations of Wood Ducks, which had declined in the early 20th century due to hunting and habitat loss.

[Ed.: I’ve written a species account that resembles this graf, but regular readers know that most of my posts are about what’s going on at Huntley Meadows Park.]

D. Has the blog written about visiting Maine?

C. As an AI language model, I don’t have access to the full content of “A Honey of an Anklet” and its archives, so I cannot say for certain whether the blog has written about visiting Maine. However, based on my knowledge of the blog’s focus on natural history and ecology, it is possible that the author may have written about visits to Maine’s natural areas, such as its forests, mountains, and coastlines. Maine is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, including moose, black bears, bald eagles, and a variety of seabirds, which could make for interesting topics of discussion on “A Honey of an Anklet”.

D. Who writes “A Honey of an Anklet”?

C. “A Honey of an Anklet” is written by David L. Gorsline. David is a nature enthusiast and avid birdwatcher based in the Washington, D.C. area. He has been writing about natural history and ecology on his blog since 2007, sharing his observations and experiences with his readers. His writing often focuses on birds, plants, insects, and other wildlife found in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States, as well as broader topics related to conservation, environmental issues, and outdoor recreation.

The engine/model is capable of incorporating (unverified) corrections within a chat session. 2007 is approximately correct. The response doesn’t ramble into my other pursuits and occupation.

But in another window:

DAVID. are you familiar with the blog titled “A Honey of an Anklet”?

CHATGPT. Yes, I am familiar with the blog titled “A Honey of an Anklet.” It is a nature blog written by Chris M. [Ed.: Who he?] in the Washington, DC area. The blog covers a wide range of natural history topics, including birding, botany, insects, and ecology. Chris M. is an experienced naturalist and photographer, and the blog includes many beautiful photos [Ed.: Hardly] of wildlife and natural landscapes.

D. Nope, wrong author again. I believe that the AI term is “hallucination.”

C. I apologize for the error in my previous response. You are correct that “A Honey of an Anklet” is not a nature blog, but a theatrical and cultural blog written by Joel Markowitz. I apologize for the confusion and any inconvenience it may have caused. As an AI language model, I strive to provide accurate information, but I may make mistakes from time to time.

D. I know Joel Markowitz. He writes about theater, but not on my blog.

C. I apologize for the mistake in my previous response. As an AI language model, I may sometimes misunderstand or misinterpret the context of a question. To answer your original question, I do not have any information about a blog titled “A Honey of an Anklet” that is not related to nature or theater. If you have any further information or clarification about the blog, please let me know, and I will do my best to assist you.

Some links: 89


What Will Art Look Like in the Metaverse?, by Dean Kissick.

In late-19th and early-20th century Paris, Rousseau and his contemporaries (Paul Gauguin, Georges Seurat, Pablo Picasso, etc.) were busy inventing bohemian modernity, creating new ways of living and of seeing the world. In our century, that visionary role appears to have passed from the artists to the engineers, to Zuckerberg and his ilk. Who else tries to invent new universes? Who dares spin grand utopian fantasies? Artists don’t anymore. It’s Silicon Valley’s Promethean founders who try — and routinely fall short.

Some assembly required

A Fairfax Master Naturalists project that I could work from my desk: I cleaned up the automated transcription of a video presentation on climate change, presented by Rachel Licker to Master Naturalists in 2014. Dr. Licker speaks softly, and the AI performing the transcription often made a hash of things. My favorite machine blunder was pursue potations for precipitation, followed closely by 4 percent the patients for for precipitation.