Archive for the ‘Blogging & Techno thingies’ Category

I killed my much-loved Sony Walkman MP3 player. This was not intentional! I was listening to the radio while soaking my feet in a bowl and I accidentally dropped the Walkman into the water. Trying to dry it out had no result and I eventually had to accept it was gone for good. This happened back in January and I searched everywhere for a replacement, but my model was now obsolete and unavailable.

Admitting defeat I purchased a Phillips Pocket Radio for $37. This had a headphone socket which meant I could listen in the wee small hours, but I could no longer download radio programmes to listen at times that suit me. Batteries were required and didn’t seem to last long, plus the reception was often scratchy and the channel easily altered by mistake.

I kept an occasional eye on TradeMe, and last Sunday I was delighted to find someone offering the model of Sony Walkman I wanted, brand new, still in its original wrapping. The price was $145 + $8 for postage. My previous Walkman had cost $130 some years ago, so this seemed reasonable. I’m always wary of buying online, but the seller looked okay, so I took a deep breath and clicked on Buy Now. After transferring the required payment my new Walkman arrived yesterday morning, very well packaged.

Well packaged Walkman

Once I’d charged it I was able to listen to RNZ National with excellent quality. It was a huge relief to be able to carry the Walkman in my pocket while I worked in the garden, and I’ve downloaded a couple of programmes I’d missed. I note the vendor is still advertising the device on TradeMe, so he must have a stock of them. Do you have a device/toy you would miss if it disappeared?

I’m so relieved to have it back
because I’ve sorely felt its lack

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I’ve been investigating ChatGPT the new Generative Artificial Intelligence which is available free online. The first time I tried to register, I was daunted by the fact that they required a cellphone number (landline not accepted). I’m wary of giving anyone my cellphone number, so I stopped there. When I discussed this with an IT savvy friend she suggested I try a slightly different number, which would look genuine. I did this, then got a message to say they’d sent me a code which I needed to enter. Of course I hadn’t got that message, so I succumbed and sent them my genuine number. A code immediately arrived and this gave me access.

I asked the bot to write a blog post in my style, which it immediately did. The post started:

As I sit here in my cozy Christchurch home, sipping on a cup of tea, I can’t help but reflect on the beauty of this city. Christchurch is a place unlike any other, with a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty that leaves visitors in awe.

From the stunning gardens and parks to the iconic Christchurch Cathedral, this city has so much to offer. But what really sets it apart is its resilient spirit. . . . . .

It went on for 411 words, including a few American spellings which are definitely NOT my style. When I asked it to Regenerate its Response it immediately gave me another blog post which started:

Greetings to my dear readers, it’s me, Ruth Gardner, coming to you from the beautiful city of Christchurch. Today, I want to share with you some of my thoughts on how to find peace in a world that often seems chaotic and unpredictable.

As we all know, life can be challenging at times. We face a multitude of pressures and responsibilities, and sometimes it can feel as though we’re juggling too many balls at once. It’s easy to become overwhelmed, anxious, and stressed out. But I believe that there are ways to find peace and balance amidst the chaos.

414 words this time, and the spelling was better. I suspect 400 words is the length of my average blog post and the bot knows this!

Next I asked it to write a poem about Jaunt, which happens to be the topic for our poetry group this week, and it instantly produced five stanzas that rhymed. Presumably it’s learned that I like to rhyme! Here’s the first stanza:

Jaunt, oh Jaunt, a journey of delight
A wondrous adventure, taking flight
A trip to somewhere far and wide
A moment in time we’ll keep inside

I am amazed and impressed, but do not intend to use ChatGPT for my creative writing. Have you played with this new toy?

This bot can instantly collate
my writing and regenerate

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Today marks seventeen years since I first wrote in this blog. I never imagined in 2006 that it would go on for so long, but posting here has given me satisfaction and enabled me to make new friends and keep contact with old ones. The interaction with readers is what I enjoy most, along with the opportunity for creative expression.

Over the years I’ve made 4,620 posts which is an average of five every week. The blog gives me a searchable record of my life over the past 17 years. I’m reminded of Janis Ian’s song about learning the truth at seventeen. I guess my blog reveals truth about me. Years ago there used to be a magazine called Seventeen. It was one of the few publications aimed at teenage girls which was available in the Epsom Girls’ Grammar School Library.

I wonder if I’ll still be posting here in another 17 years.

My blog has now turned seventeen
a record of my local scene

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A bright shiny white button lying on the road outside caught my eye as I came home yesterday. When I picked it up it sang to me, and as I turned it over I saw it had an Apple logo. Tiny writing identified it as an Air Tag.

Orphan Air Tag

I’ve read that these are now permitted to be used by air travellers to trace where their luggage is, and guessed someone must have dropped it near our cottage. My first instinct was to simply toss it in the red rubbish bin, but investigation told me it cost $59 and I thought someone may be motivated to come looking for it. Knowing that it’s able to send its owner information about its location I was wary of taking it inside, and left it on the patio overnight.

A digital daughter warned me it was likely the owner might come knocking on our door, so today I took the Tag over the road and placed it on top of a lonely road cone. From our windows I can see it’s still sitting there shining in the sunlight.

Will someone claim their lost Air Tag
that’s meant to be inside their bag?

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This morning’s talk was from Stephen Lukosh, a Professor with the HIT Lab NZ, University of Canterbury. He explained that we can have Mixed Reality, some being virtual, and some augmented with a mixture of real and artificial. Environments can be simulated, yet the user feels immersed in them and is able to interact with the environment. We saw part of the dystopian movie Ready Player One, where people could be totally immersed in the Oasis, which has similarities to Zuckerberg’s Metaverse.

Stephen pointed out that some people can experience Simulator Sickness when using virtual reality (VR) headsets, and this has led to the development of better head-mounted devices. VR can include several of our senses, with scent being provided by an air canon.

Prior to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics the HIT Lab created a virtual simulation of the Alpine Down Hill course which the athletes used to train on before going to Beijing. VR has also been used for military training. We need to remember that using VR could give people a false sense of competency. It can help people learn, but may also make them over-confident.

In augmented reality digital content is added to the real world, and much of this research has been funded by the U.S. military. 3D images can be added to text books bringing pictures alive. Quiver is a programme where coloured-in pictures can be brought to life. It was noted that this cannot replace the blank pages children use to express their creativity. X-ray images can be superimposed on bodies to assist in medical operations, and VR can provide remote support for all kinds of repairs. There is a danger that by using digital information we may lose skills we have.

Augmented reality is being used now in Christchurch to show what buildings will look like before they are constructed, giving a better view than a two-dimensional plan. It’s also used to see underground pipes and services.

Stephen pointed out that HIT Lab’s motto is to put People before Technology.

It seems our real world can be
augmented by technology

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Associate Professor Alistair Knott was the speaker at this morning’s U3A session, with the subject: How will Artificial Intelligence impact on jobs and work in New Zealand?

Alistair has been researching Artificial Intelligence (AI) for 30 years, and is part of the AI and Law in NZ Project. He pointed out that AI systems already hire, monitor, and manage workers, and that robots are already being used in various areas, e.g. doing warehouse work, assisting police, and in the form of driver-less vehicles, such as the one at Christchurch Airport. Robots are the workers of the future, and now is the time to decide whether or not we want them, and how they might be regulated.

Some AI systems make decisions, such as the smart gate at the airport which matches your passport with your face. Some are text processing systems such as the chat-bots you meet on websites. There are AI systems which can produce new articles based on what they’ve learned on the web, e.g. the Open AI GPT2.

It’s essential that Aotearoa prepares for AI entering the workplace, and there is concern that it might cause unemployment. AI could improve the productivity of human workers, allowing the working week to be reduced, which would improve wellbeing. The outcome will be different depending on whether the AI is N.Z. owned, or owned offshore (by the likes of Google, Amazon, and Microsoft). The big tech companies need to be regulated and do what the Government tells them. If workers are replaced by AI there is a danger that inequality will increase, but if we own the AI the Government could use that tax to fund the redistribution of wealth, e.g. a Universal Basic Income (which was Values Party policy 50 years ago – sigh!). We’ve proved we can build our own versions of profitable AI, such as Trade Me, our local version of eBay.

Whatever happens, humans are likely to have a shorter working week, and the Government needs to prepare for this by investing in education and encouraging people to value community, as exemplified by Māori and Pacifica.

When asked what was a good educational direction for a 16 year old Alistair said that computer science is crucial, but needs to be taught alongside ethics, sociology, and law, in an interdisciplinary way. It’s also important to learn how to make good use of leisure time and follow one’s passions.

For those who work alongside an AI system there could be control issues. Who will be responsible when/if something goes wrong? If the work of professionals (doctors, lawyers) is done by AI this may improve access for consumers, but do we want to hand over the social function (pastoral care) to AI?

The world of AI is exciting and promises benefits, but it’s up to us and our Government to decide how it should be deployed. There are three main areas to consider: Are the benefits spread equally? Can everyone work less? How do we keep society functioning?

So much potential with A.I.
Which regulations should apply?

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Friday was a good day. our poetry group had an excellent meeting and there was an article in the Press about a site close to our cottage. This contained an error which I was able to use as a hook for a letter to the Editor.

Saturday started well with our weekly Zoom call to the daughters. I then checked the Press, found they hadn’t printed my letter, but on page 3 they’d used some of the information I’d given to print a correction to the previous day’s article. I felt miffed!

A break in the rain meant I could go out for a 20 minute walk. When I got home I went to do my daily Wordle, and found I couldn’t access it. The address bar at the top of the screen showed figures for the statistics for the 40 Wordles I’ve completed, but the screen was blank. I use Firefox as my preferred browser, believing their ethics are better than some providers. However, needs must when the devil drives (a phrase used by Shakespeare in 1601). I turned to Chrome and there Wordle awaited. I solved it on the second try, but my statistics didn’t show. Googling gave me a hint that Firefox had a loop around Wordle, but I still can’t get in that way today.

A friend visited in the afternoon and we enjoyed playing Canasta. She beat me in all three games, but I will have a chance for revenge in the not-too-distant future.

It’s raining again today, so no beach walk. Another walk was cancelled last Thursday because of rain. I heard the Auckland Harbour Bridge will be closed for several hours today because of high winds, and there are slips and road closures in Wellington. I hope the wet weather may dampen the enthusiasm of the peculiar protesters outside Parliament.

I had some setbacks yesterday
but better times are on their way

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For 35 days in a row I’ve posted something on this blog. I started on a post-Christmas roll (technically known as a streak) and was motivated to continue when I read about a WordPress project called Bloganuary which was a challenge to post something every day for the whole month of January. I managed to do that, and would like to keep writing every day, but some days it’s hard to find inspiration.

I have a book of 642 writing prompts, but many of them require imagination and I’m more of a factual writer. After blogging for almost 16 years, with 4,370 posts behind me I worry that I may repeat myself and wonder if my readers will notice if I do. I looked for lists of prompts on the internet but again many require imagination and creative thinking.

One prompt that did catch my attention was “Who was your first best friend?” The first close friend I remember was Karen. We met when I was seven and she was eight, and we were in a composite Standard 1 & 2 class at St Albans Primary School.

1956 class photo: I’m 4th from right on the 2nd row from bottom and Karen is 2nd from left in the same row.

Karen lived just a couple of blocks away from me in Sherborne Street and we used to walk to and from school together. She had two brothers and a sister as well as two parents. As I had only my mother and a much older brother I found this larger family intriguing. Karen and her older sister shared a small second-storey bedroom where they kept a collection of paper dolls and we spent many happy hours dressing these. They also had a collection of comics, which were new to me. Every Sunday afternoon the whole family went for a drive and I was often included. We would visit various friends and relations and have afternoon tea. It wasn’t always the whole family that went – sometimes the older sister would be left at home to do the ironing.

I occasionally also went on holiday with them when we would stay at a camping ground somewhere in the Canterbury area. On these occasions Karen and I slept in the large family car. When my mother, brother, and I toured the North Island one summer, Karen came with us.

Once mother and I moved to Auckland my contact with Karen was reduced to letter writing but a few years later her family also moved to Auckland. When I married Karen’s father “gave me away” . We had no suitable male relations for this role as my brother had emigrated to Australia, and in those days a male “donor” was considered essential.

Contact dwindled after this as Karen’s family lived in a distant part of Auckland. Eventually she too married and went to live in Australia, and I have no idea where she is now. Unless people stay in the city of their childhood it seems inevitable that early friendships will fade. Having moved cities twice during my life I have lost contact with many friends who were once close. My daughters have moved more and further, but the internet now makes it easier to trace and keep in touch with people. I’ve searched for Karen online, but haven’t managed to find her.

I’ve lost touch with my first best friend
the one on whom I could depend

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Mark Zuckerberg and his minions want us to join the Metaverse – a place where we will all meet through virtual reality.

I experienced this in 2018 when I had the opportunity to row a kayak along the Avon, all while I was sitting in a chair. There was also an occasion when Air NZ celebrated a milestone by providing a virtual reality flying experience at the Canterbury Museum. Both of these were fun to do, but not quite the same as the real thing. Some distant friends have bought a virtual reality headset. They can sit on an exercycle and experience a virtual bike ride. This was useful during lockdown, but still not quite the same. They’ve experimented with Half-Life: Alyx, but the novelty soon wore off.

Ruth rowing a virtual kayak

I believe you can meet up and interact with avatars in the Metaverse, but I can’t see how it could ever be a replacement for going outside and having actual social contact. An article in yesterday’s Press pointed out the dangers of harassment, racism, and porn. What do you think? I have wondered if online shopping might be the thin end of the Metaverse?

Having virtual experiences of art galleries, museums, etc, would be great for those unable to travel, but I’m not sure that’s what Zuckerberg has in mind. It seems he wants to shift our existence from the physical world to an immersive internet, and thereby have even more influence over us. I don’t want to go. do you?

I think I’m bound to get averse
to joining in the Metaverse.

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I love to blog. It satisfies my need for creative expression and gives me contact with all kinds of people, near and far, who read my blog and make comments. I appreciate and value all of you.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to write. Prior to Christmas I went a whole week without blogging, because nothing inspired me to write and I was busy with other activities. For the past 20 days I’ve posted something every day, and the habit becomes addictive. I keep an eye on my visitor statistics and am always pleased to get comments. Sometimes I think that what I’ve written isn’t very engaging, yet it will spark someone’s interest. Topics come from all around me, but some days it’s hard to find anything to write about especially if nothing new seems to be happening.

I have a book with 642 things to write about, but many of these require imagination and my imagination isn’t very active at present. The book did inspire my recent post about ice creams. My preference is to write about actual events and feelings. Because I’ve been blogging for over 15 years there’s a danger I may repeat myself, especially if I’m writing about the garden and/or seasons of the year. It’s unlikely that anyone except me will remember what I’ve written before, and often the only reason I remember is because they show up in my Facebook Memories.

Lately I’ve been purposefully encouraging my mind to drift just before I fall asleep and when I first wake up. This sometimes gives me an idea to write about, as happened for this very post. I always scribble my thoughts on paper, add a title and a final couplet, then go to seek a suitable illustration. How do others find inspiration for regular writing?

I want to write here every day
but sometimes don’t know what to say

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