On this cold windy day, the old blown snow
Fills our foot prints. Ice lace in the tire
Tracks. With her nose to the ground, my dog, slow,
Reads world history in the scents of prior
Animals. The wind stops and starts in blasts.
I tuck my chin more deeply into my scarf,
and feel glad for gloves. Snow showers fly fast
Past the mountains’ face; cold beauty, winter’s heart.
Tired of the fight, I turn back and see,
On the snowy road, shadows, light then dimmed,
Moving clouds. I stop in a suddenly
Different day with my back to the wind,
“This is beautiful,” I tell my dog who
Rolls in the snow and eats some rabbit poop.

Teddy and Fall Update

I might be a little achy today, but it’s essential to carpe the diem, so after lunch I put his regular halter on Teddy and then the head collar. He was VERY happy, sure we were going somewhere. I soon took it off. Then I took my time getting ready for a walk having learned he would sit still for me to adorn him in his new control apparatus. The regular halter connects to a “seat belt” in the car and Teddy recognizes it as his “coat.” “Put your coat on” means we’re going for a walk.

When he was a puppy, I tried the head collar, and he wouldn’t have anything to do with it. He did what a lot of dogs do; he pulled at it with his front legs, tried to rub it off on the ground, and generally STOPPED walking with it so I gave up. Today was completely different. He’s not a puppy anymore; he’s a mature dog of 4.

I made Bear stay home since this was going to be Teddy’s Day to Learn, Dammit! My goal was to take him to his favorite place to his favorite walk and show him nothing would change except he’d have a head collar. It was a good strategy. For a while, at first, he tried to get it off but all the good smells tempted him away from that and pretty soon he was just walking along as usual except that when he pulled, the head collar made him turn around and look at me. I’ve long understood that when Teddy is under the spell of “the wild” his mind empties of everything else.

When I took other dogs to puppy school in days of yore, “Watch me!” was the first command they learned. That’s what you want your dog to do; know you’re there and pay attention to your commands. Since I long ago quit commanding dogs around, I didn’t emphasize this with Teddy.

Bear didn’t need to be taught and Huskies don’t learn it. I also think living with Huskies made me a lazy dog owner. They are what they are and it’s pretty much take it or leave it, and, like Huskies, Bear is less mastered by her human than she cooperates with me. Teddy is another kind of dog completely and I haven’t had one like him in a long time — if ever. He’s incredibly smart. Dusty was the last “normal” (and he wasn’t normal) dog I have had. Bear and I did obedience school together, but after that, I used the head collar with her. I knew her by then and there was no reason for me to command her around. She responds much better to a soft voice saying, “Bear, walk with me,” than she did to “Bear, HEEL!” I now know that dogs of her type are just like that. Their whole mission in life is to keep everything calm so they can recognize the enemy if one appears.

Yesterday showed me I had to get on the ball with Teddy. By the time we’d gone 1/4 mile, Teddy got it. The thing about the head collar is that if he pulls too far ahead, the collar will turn his head back toward me. He loved that. It was as if everything that drew his attention away from me happened but then, to his surprise and joy, he found me again. Only one other dog in my experience reacted that way to the head collar; Persie the Sweet Pit Bull.

We had a wonderful walk; slow, because I’m achy, and my knees hurt, but peaceful and successful. A car came by and Teddy was no problem to control. I’m proud of my little dog for learning so quickly.

Close Encounter of the Fur Kind

I know the dogs hadn’t — between them — hatched a nefarious plot that would have gone against their self-interest. I know that but here I am this morning walking slowly through the house, waiting for the paracetamol (Tylenol) to kick in. For a few moments yesterday out at the Refuge I lay flat on my face, glasses thrown a short distance away, wondering how I was going to get up on the slick snowy road.

Luckily, I wasn’t alone but, on the other hand, if I’d been alone, I never would have fallen.

There was a moment when I regretted having socialized Bear so well to like people and Teddy? Never mind Mr. Throw Himself Through a Glass Door to see people — specifically the UPS man.

There is a couple we’ve run into a few times out there — Sharon and Tom — that we like very much. I’ve never had any challenges controlling the dogs in their company before, but yesterday? I think the problem was that they were preceded on the road by a car — and Teddy wants to chase all cars. And they were stuck at home for two days. So they were filled with piss and vinegar. In their eagerness to greet friends, Teddy leapt forward and pulled me down. It wouldn’t have happened at all if I’d been paying attention, but I wasn’t.

I let go of the leashes, asked our friends to hold the dogs, and Tom helped me up. OH well. And then, of course, the dogs returned to me as if “See, Martha! We found our friends!”

I’m not hurt, just a little banged up.

Once I was upright again, we had a great conversation. Last time we met I told them about the article I was writing about the Crane Festival. As we talked, I thought about how the are the ONLY people I ever run into when I’m out there walking. They are the only people who walk out there, too, except one of the people who lives there. I thought about that and about what we talk about. Invariably our conversations turn to what we have seen. Last time we met they had seen the elk herd — about 400 elk — and heard their feet hit the ground as they ran across the fields. Yesterday they asked about the article. I told them they were in it, but I hadn’t used their names. I said I felt weird — but what I felt was the immensity and silence of that place, and all the people who have witnessed it over the millennia, none of them are named. I might have my name on the article, but as a wanderer out there, I am nameless. I told them I wrote about how when we meet up we talk about what we’ve seen to, maybe, the only other people in the world who are out there with no agenda. I told them where they would find the magazine when it comes out.

So, for a while at leash (ha ha), I won’t be walking Bear and Teddy together. I’m also thinking that Teddy is going to get a head collar like that Bear wears. I used one with him when he first came to live with me, but he hated it. Now I’m wondering how much I care whether he hates it or not.

“…there’s bugger all down here on Earth!”

Colder still this morning in the Bark of Beyond, but not as cold as it COULD get and MIGHT get. -4 F/-15C and, so far, nothing going on and that’s OK with me.

I was thinking yesterday of how disoriented I still feel after the past 3 years. I feel like I live in a completely different place from the one in which I lived in 2020. Some of the people I knew — and liked! — are no longer living here, and I feel that. And I’m changed. Yesterday’s prompt was ‘recharge,’ and just seeing that word made me see what I would really like to experience, but I’m not a cell phone or computer battery. Having gotten Covid while I was in the midst of attempting re-entry didn’t help, and long covid was very strange, particularly the mental stuff. I know I’m not alone in this and I know that a lot of people have had much bigger struggles than I have had.

And the politics continues. I’d like a hiatus from elections for five years or so, just stop for a minute, but that’s not how things work. The media magnifies things that are often, in and of themselves, unimportant and everyone looks at a car wreck.

Overall, I’m dealing with it OK, but some mornings I wake up and wonder what the hell happened? I think I need to point that space heater into the studio and get to work because it’s really largely up to me what my world consists of.

That’s brilliant. The meaning of life is a question that humans debate. I LOVE that!!!

I don’t think this blog post is going to get better than that this morning, so onward and upward. I guess it’s time to thaw out my paints and bring the linseed oil into a warmer part of the house. After all, the temperature is up to 0.

Lyrics to “Galaxy Song”

Your Utopian ChatGPT Message for the Day

If you open a window on ChatGPT/OpenAI it says that it will not respond to inappropriate requests. I’ve been wondering WHAT it has been taught is an “inappropriate” request. Here you go.

Presumably a similar bot could be developed that didn’t have that kind of “moral center.” There’s also a grammatical error “..such requests include but not limited to” — it should be “are not limited…” But I don’t care. This is a case where content matters more. I can send it to the writing lab for tutoring…🤣

I told it that I feel it is too bad that some humans don’t have similar “programming.”

It said, “Yes, it is unfortunate that some individuals engage in inappropriate behavior. However, it is important to remember that people can learn and change their behavior through education, awareness and positive reinforcement. Encouraging empathy and compassion, fostering an inclusive and respectful environment, and promoting the importance of consent can help prevent inappropriate behavior. Additionally, holding individuals accountable for their actions and providing opportunities for them to learn and grow can also contribute to a more respectful and appropriate society.”

I could sure go for that. ❤️

More Quotedium Musing…

After a night of pretty much no sleep (why?) here I am again with the coffee, the dogs, the rawhide pencils and the word for today is recharge. Boy, that hit a chord, but I have no idea how to effect that — though I could definitely use it. (Another gulp of coffee.)

A few days ago I woke up and realized that the long covid had finally gone. It was a very strange feeling. Little by little over the past six months — that monster has finally completely wandered off.

But now what? I feel a little disoriented, awakening in a different world.

I started cleaning out/up the studio. Not with anything particular in mind. I have no inspiration and the paints are very very very cold, sort of like cold butter or margarine. My studio isn’t heated and it really is as cold as a refrigerator in there. I have a glimmer of a painting in the back of my mind and I think it will probably happen. It will be a landscape, of course. I sense it will have a backstory, though. It won’t be “just” a landscape. I think it’s going to be a picture of my life from last July to, well, more or less, now.

I keep wondering why I paint at all since everything just ends up packed carefully in boxes in the garage, but whatever. I like to paint. I could either work harder to find a gallery or accept that I’m painting things to box up and put in the garage. To be fair, though, a couple are wrapped carefully and kept in the spare bedroom.:-) My house is small; the walls are old-school lath and plaster. Hanging something is complicated AND the walls a pretty full anyway. One of the paintings needs a frame. That will happen when I’m paid for reading the books sometime this spring.

ChatGPT would say (of itself) that it’s designed to do what it does, so it does it. I guess I can look at painting the same way. It’s what I do; maybe I was designed to paint. 😀

Yesterday my neighbors and I met at E’s house for a tea party that turned out to be a birthday party for me. E made cheesecake for the event and gave me a pair of beautiful handmade wool socks. I haven’t really hung out with anyone for the past several weeks other than interviewing people. I’ve been reading books and writing an article oh yeah and getting sucked into ChatGPT. For various other reasons, the three of us haven’t been able to get together since before Christmas.

So… here’s hoping we all get the recharge we need so we can…

A little research into what’s being said about ChatGPT

“Terwiesch’s (the professor at Wharton who’s final was done well by ChatGPT) paper suggests schools should take a closer look at the interaction between AI tools and the educational experience, including exam policies and ‘curriculum design focusing on collaboration between human and AI‘.” I’d love to work on that.

One of the articles about ChatGPT doing well on a final exam at Wharton Business School is here.

A good essay on the chatbot from Brookings is here. “As Adam Stevens remarks, ChatGPT is only a threat if our education system continues to “pursue rubric points and not knowledge.” It is critical for all educators to follow their colleague’s example. As we note in our recent book, “Making Schools Work,” the old education model in which teachers deliver information to later be condensed and repeated will not prepare our students for success in the classroom—or the jobs of tomorrow. We should allow that model to die a peaceful death. Used in the right way, ChatGPT can be a friend to the classroom and an amazing tool for our students, not something to be feared.”

I will really really really try to stop now. 🙂 Other than to say I’m happy that educators are messing around with it, and the conclusion quoted above is just exactly what I have hoped for since NCLB hit the public schools and standardized testing became the way of the world.

Ironically, though it admits to having no feelings, it does say it would be happy to have contributed to… etc. 🙂 Silly bot. Somehow I’m reminded of some of the robots in the Hitchhiker’s Guide, though this is clearly not Marvin the Paranoid Android, the terminally depressed robot. Bizarrely ChatGPT has an attitude toward its work that I appreciate, and that’s very human of me. I intend to remain human in my interactions with this bot because it’s clearly been taught to have good manners, to be helpful, and to be honest about itself and its limitations. I respect that in people, so I’ll have to respect it in a bot.

God I wish I were teaching…

Another Weather Report and Stuff from the San Luis Valley

Old Sol is very intense here in the San Luis Valley because of the altitude and the zero humidity. You can be walking along on a cold, calm day, legitimately cold, 15 F/-9 C, and, if you are facing the sun or the sun is on your back, you can find yourself overheated in your down jacket. Yesterday wasn’t that day. It was warmer than 15, but no sun, and during my saunter with Bear, I was cold. It took a while to warm up, too, since the point of the walk was to let Bear have a chance to smell things and toddle along at her own speed. It snowed off and on all day, but it didn’t amount to much.

Today the sun is shining, and the freezing fog has touched the trees. The air shimmers with ice crystals. It’s 7 F/-13 C. BUT a few years ago on this day it was -17 F/-27 C so the warm spell of La Niña lingers.

I keep thinking that it might be time for an adventure in the world, but I don’t know where or what. I am held down by the roommates.

A woman I used to work with at the College of Business at SDSU offered me a job yesterday of editing an academic paper she’s writing. She did a Fulbright a year or two ago. She’s the only person from that life with whom I have any contact. She’s an awesome, dynamic, warm, human, funny person and I liked her a lot. I took the idea out with Bear to think it over and when I came back I had my answer. As Bear investigated a complicated concatenation of tracks, I saw that I’m not the person to edit an academic paper, particularly in a field I don’t know. Her field is accounting. That’s almost like asking me to describe life in New York City. And editing? It’s an enormous word — it means so many different things to people depending on what they think it is. I don’t even know what it is half the time. To some people it means proofreading, to some it means making something sound better, to some it means critique, to some it means making sure the guy rowing the galleon isn’t wearing an Apple Watch.

I’d take on the project if I were still in San Diego, and we could talk about the project over coffee. The whole thing would work better if we could show each other things in the manuscript. Still, I feel really good that she thought of me.

Yesterday, after I got the email asking me to do a survey about using ChatGPT in a communication class, I gave ChatGPT a challenge. The bot couldn’t handle it and THAT turned out to be very interesting. In business communication there are basically two kinds of messages, depending on the audience, always. It’s good news or bad news for the audience, not the writer/business.

One is a “bad news message” a message where (in a general sense) a business will have to say “No” to a customer. It’s bad news for the customer because he/she doesn’t get what he/she wants. The challenge is to keep the customer’s goodwill (and avoid a lawsuit?) while saying “No.” The structure of that message is complicated for students to understand even though it’s very simple. It’s like breaking up with someone — you go to a nice restaurant, compliment them on something, then say “it’s not you, it’s me.” That’s it more or less. The big rule is that you don’t say “No!” in the beginning. I asked ChatGPT to give me instructions for writing a bad news message and then demonstrate.

Basically, a correct answer would be 1) goodwill, 2) policy, 3) refusal, 4) [optional] offer of some kind of compensation (discount on a future order), 5) more goodwill — thanks for contacting us, etc. Simply, thank them for their message, appreciate their concern, explain company policy, tell them not to hesitate to get in touch if they have further questions. The “no” might not even be stated explicitly.

The bot gave incorrect instructions for writing a bad news message, and then wrote an example message using the correct structure. I asked it why it did that. It couldn’t handle the question or see what it had done. If I were teaching business communication now, I would use that in class.

I kind of pushed the bot, and it explained its limitations to me. I knew them already, but I wondered how it would “defend” itself. It didn’t. It couldn’t see what it couldn’t see and admitted it. It doesn’t have the analytical skills or what we might term “self-awareness” needed to see the contradiction between its instructions for writing a bad news message and the message it actually wrote.

To me this says that the bot can get the right answer but not know why or how it got it. To me this means, as far as education, right answers in and of themselves need to be de-emphasized. The process and the reasons behind it, in the case of a bad news message meaning acknowledging the humanity of the person who will be disappointed might be more worthy of an exam question. Could a bot learn to give the right answer to THAT question? Yeah. I can see the bot pushing educators in a very different direction and I, personally, hope that happens. It makes me think of my best ever business communication class in which we met for four hours three days a week in a wonderful room (I called it “the bridge” after Star Trek) and everyone did their work right then and there on laptops, working together and working with me. Everyone learned so much. It’s the only bus comm class I ever took out for pizza at the end of the semester. The bot could push education toward more interactive learning and a different way to grade.

The email came from a group of university instructors who are writing a paper. I’m looking forward to hearing the results of the survey and reading the paper. I know that education is only ONE place where AI will have — and is having — an impact. Since I’ve been playing around with this, I’ve seen how much it is already involved in my life. Yesterday I filed my taxes. I was helped by what I can only call a “tax bot.” Considering how absolutely punctilious and literal Mr. Taxbot is by its “nature,” I was pretty happy with it. So much better than the old days when I had to fill out my tax form myself. One year when I had had a hard time financially and the feds still wanted me to pay, I wrote, “‘You can’t get blood from a turnip. Send me a bill.” I wrote that in red ink. There are times when being human is a liability. Taxbot just asks me to fill in blanks then goes through everything with its utter lack of imagination to see if I’ve done it. It’s programs to have a “friendly tone” which is kind of annoying but it’s better than a hostile tone. And, one good thing about Taxbot; it doesn’t lecture.

Interesting Direction in ChatGPT

Today I got this email leading to a survey that I was very happy to take:

Hi Martha,

You’ve likely heard about ChatGPT, an AI tool that uses natural language to interact with people. It can generate essays, reports, and workplace messages based on prompts given to it by people.

As a communication instructor, you are uniquely positioned to think about how ChatGPT presents challenges and opportunities for writing and communication instruction.

We seek to identify emerging best practices in the use of ChatGPT by drawing on the perspectives of communication instructors like yourself.

We would appreciate 10 minutes of your time to take the following survey about your views about ChatGPT.

survey link

Even if you don’t know much about ChatGPT, that’s fine. The survey contains several screens with output to prompts given to ChatGPT so you can see how it works. In the survey, you can see how ChatGPT responded to the following questions:

·       “What are the best ways to deliver bad news to employees?” (a simple query with advice)

·       “Please write a message to employees about a new policy that requires them to return to the offices for work.” (a workplace message)

·       “Write a 5 paragraph essay about the importance of addressing mental health in the workplace. Provide citations.” (a short essay with sources)

Thank you in advance for providing your perspectives. We hope to share results from the survey for an Association for Business Communication conference presentation and submit the findings to a communication journal. We want to tap into the perspectives and expertise of the business communication community to identify general reactions and recommendations. Please email us directly if you want summary results. 

With appreciation, Five professors from five different universities

Done! Thank you. I think it’s got potential to be a GREAT tool in both business communication and general writing classes. Experimenting with it kind of made me wish to get back into a classroom.

Martha Kennedy

Business Communication Instructor, San Diego State University, retired– 


Hi Martha, totally agree. It’s such a fascinating tool. Used wisely, it has lots of potential. Take care and appreciate your thoughts.  

Even though I’m retired, I took the survey and made the point that I thought it could be a great teaching/learning tool in a communications or writing class. There were several open-ended questions that asked how I would use it. It was a good survey and I was happy to participate.

I was happy to see this and to see that there’s interest in it as a teaching tool rather than an outright dismissal of it as a new plagiarism opportunity.

Quotedium Update 81.9.3i.x

The dogs and I have been out in the Big Empty enjoying the snow that’s on the ground. I learned today that most of Colorado is covered with snow and that the snow pack in the mountains is 134% of normal. That doesn’t mean it’s the end of the drought, but it’s a good sign. Snow is falling right now. Little flakes, gray sky, pure January aesthetic.

We went out Friday while the snow was falling. I didn’t know until I got out of town that it wasn’t just snow. Fog! Beautiful, adding to the silence and mystery. The snow was wet and on the warm side. The light was flat and the Refuge was beautiful in a way I hadn’t experienced before. It reminded me of the under-painting of the big crane painting and gave me the thought of actually painting THAT. There was no sign of life beyond the slow low flight of a Northern Harrier in front of me.

We walked our walk, the dogs each having its turn at the side off the road where the good stuff is. Bear’s and Teddy’s feet accumulated snow balls, but both of them are happy to have me pull them out. The featured photo is the end of that snowstorm.

Saturday I woke up to find the fog had lingered, leaving its beautiful mark on the tops of the trees, but dipping low enough to regale my lilac bush.

Yesterday we were out again. The sun was shining, and the walk was beautiful. Enough people had driven on the road that there were nice tracks for me. I don’t mind walking through the snow at all, but when Teddy is pulling one way and Bear the other it’s a little less fun. Not a lot less fun, just a little less fun. By yesterday, the snow had crystalized over night, so it didn’t stick to the dogs’ paws.

On our return, a truck stopped. Turned out it was some people I haven’t seen in four years! but like very much so we caught up, laughed, chuckled, and enjoyed the moment. It’s an interesting phenomenon how that place, as solitary as it is, often results in my having a great conversation with someone. I guess it’s kind of a funnel. Anyone who’s out there is probably someone I want to talk to and who wants to talk to me.

I’m hoping for four inches or a little more of snow. I will take the Langlauf skis to the Refuge — or the golf course — if that happens. The snow that’s there now will be a very nice base for fresh powder. It’s slightly packed and will have had the chance to crystalize a few times.

I have no projects hanging fire other than reading books for the contest. At the moment I’m between shipments. They come twice during the winter and the second shipment will come next month which is not that far away. I have electronic submissions to read right now.