In Defense of my Pedestrian Mindset

I wish I were more of a historian. Back in high school I accepted the terms of a transaction that made the most sense at the time: I operated with minimal sleep and subsequent lack of mental focus and interest in exchange for working late hours on school nights and using free time to have fun. I’ll admit that my education–all twelve-thirteen years of it–gave me a reasonably functional cultural background, and it has served me well enough. Columbus discovered America, the Greeks invented Democracy, Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated and started World War I, the Indians grew maize, E=MC(2), the sun is a star, Lincoln freed the slaves, and, well, you know, all that stuff. Now, though, everything I know, or think I know, I’ve acquired on my own over the years since I graduated from high school, and no details of my school learning remain in memory. Well, except the fact that the diameter of the asteroid, Ceres, is 480 miles*, the speed of light is 186,000 miles per second, and a handful of other useful tidits. Some things just stick. No idea why.

*Nowadays they say the diameter of Ceres is 588 miles, but I question the veracity of current astronomical authority because Pluto is a fucking planet.

It is now a few days later. I actually wrote the above because I had this idea burning in my head and I had to get it out. Perfect blog fodder, I thought to myself as I snapped open my marginally trusty rusty Macbook coming up on its first decade, and “navigated” to the WP site. (“Navigate,” “publish,” high priced words to use as if we’re not really just sitting on the couch wanting more coffee but too lazy to get up and get some.) But then I thought I’d begin with a sort of preamble, a disclaimer, if you will, and then I forgot what was so important. It just vanished into thin air. The literary (yeah yeah I know) equivalent of opening the door to the icebox and not remembering what it was you craved just seconds earlier.

This is still the case, but enough time has passed it doesn’t really matter anymore. In my own defense, the original thought was a very subtle one, spoken to me only in the language of the mind and, it turns out, never sufficiently translated into language and then, subsequently, into organized sentences. If you would grant that my blog has organized sentences in it.

Some years after I left school I read somewhere that generally, people tend to not remember thoughts. Sounds, sounds we remember more vividly. I suspect actual language, as well. But thoughts just come and go, as if our brains evolved during a time in human (hominid) history when it was sufficient to respond efficiently and more or less correctly to what was right in front of us, and then to move on with a clear head, ready to face the next threat to survival. This is not at all like sitting on a couch wondering about the payoff vs effort of getting another cup of coffee.

Now that this entire post has spiraled off like some errant planet that once circled an uncaring star, I leave you with a final thought. That is, where do thoughts come from anyway? And why, more importantly, if it was important enough, it will come back to you? Because if it doesn’t, you’ll never know, will you?

Instagram

I spent quite a long time trying to figure out how to put an Instagram Widget on this blog before I ultimately gave up. There was one long explanation that I could have tried, but I thought there was a good chance that when it came right down to it, I would have to have a premium account of some kind for it to work. As someone wise once told me, sometimes the juice ain’t worth the squeeze. There is a “paragraph” widget, so I used that to type out the URL of my Instagram account. It reveals the URL to be:

WWW.INSTAGRAM.COM/RDEGR

It’s downright frightening how many pictures I have posted. Anyway, there it is, if you like looking at little square pictures. So far, I haven’t gotten bored with Instagram, nor have I become annoyed enough at its practices to delete my account. (Although I’ve come close.)

Facebook continues its slow, steady decline in my eyes. I like posting my pictures on my page, but I don’t particularly care about any of the things I see on my home page. I mean, I care about what my friends are doing, I just don’t see the value in keeping that close an eye on them. And this is not to mention all the shit The Algorithm pushes off on me.

And this reminds me–yesterday I did something I don’t usually do, which is turn to Youtube TV and see what’s on live TV. I mean, we’re paying good money for this, and almost never look at it. I saw the movie “Shawshank Redemption” was on one channel, so I started watching it. After a couple of minute the commercials started. I literally thought they would never end. After several minutes, I thought, OK, now, surely this is the last commercial. But, no. And then another and another, and surely NOW this will be the last one. But, no. And on and on. Finally it stopped, and I was treated to a few more minutes of the movie. I switched off before it all started over. Why are we pumping money every month from our bank account to their bank account???

Anyway, consider yourself formally invited to look at my Instagram account. I have fun taking the pics and fiddling with them, so, for what it’s worth . . .

Writing Strategies

This whole thing was inspired by a post on Who the Hell Knows, over here. For the month of September, some committed themselves to writing a fictional scene each day. Hetty at WHK chose to serialize them. In my case, it was just random, as I wanted to try out different genres. At any rate, it’s over, and I, for one, did not manage to write a post every single day. I surprised myself by writing “several,” if not all 30. I am not upset about this, though I kind of regret my inability to focus that well. Mainly, I am not upset because I gave up long ago allowing the Internet or anything on it to dictate what I do. I don’t need that extra layer of angst or stress or what-have-you.

(Parenthetically, this philosophy has creeped into many other areas of my life, as I grow older.)

Why were these writing challenges invented? The common wisdom is that one must create a habit of writing regularly if one is to enable that other feature that common wisdom calls neural pathways, or opening the gates to our creativity, or whatever. The habit of writing.

So. How many days does it take to form a habit? Common Wisdom, that ever present purveyor of logical sounding but sometimes nonsensical advice, says, 21. I’ve heard that all my life, but I’m skeptical. A quick Google of the matter indicates that many scientific studies (however flimsy) say, no, it’s more like 90 days. Furthermore, one reference that sticks to the 21 day rule is a site called “lifehack dot org.” This is important to note: if they say something, it is automatically suspect simply because they call themselves “lifehack,” a stupid term that’s too cute and trendy by 84%, and lexicologically unsound to begin with. But I digress.

To get back to the original thought, the usefulness of writing a scene a day throughout the month of September, perhaps it is best to think in terms of three or four months, or half a year. Challenging, but entirely possible, especially if you admit 15 minutes a day is sufficient to maintain that sought after habit forming momentum. I think, too, that it might be like dieting. Human nature is fighting us on that one, and to successfully and permanently lose weight, most experts on the matter agree it requires a lifestyle change. So it must be with writing.

Or, maybe. I don’t want to add to the pontificating offenses of the Internet in general. Just, maybe it’s worth a thought.

Colorization

I recently ran across an article about colorization of black and white digital photos. Now there are various so-called AI programs that will colorize a photo with a single click (more or less) and/or some text base instructions. Not sure how any of this works. The conversation about what artificial intelligence, or AI is, in the first place, is one best left for a later date. I think it’s an unfortunate use of the word “Intelligence,” but, again . . . later date.

Below, on the left, is a recently found photo of famous photographer Alfred Stieglitz, and I chose it to experiment with on an online AI colorizer called Pallette. It’s a web page. Once there, you simply drag a black and white photo onto the page and it will produce a colorized version of it, plus some variations, if you so wish and so click.

Below, the left picture is the original color. The middle picture is a “true” black and white version of the Stieglitz picture, to get rid of the warm tone and correct some lighting or luminance curves, or levels of black and white. Actually a very simple operation to make the picture “clearer.” I took that photoshopped version and dragged it on the Pallette web page. On the right is the colorized version it produced.

I think it did a great job. No telling what color the dress actually was, or the walls, or anything, but that must be where the AI part comes in–it took a guess at what the objects in the picture were and then figured what color they should be, based, I suppose, on the enormous amount of picture data at its disposal. It’s not really “thinking,” but I guess the more data its caretakers feed it, the closer it will get to what some reasonably well-informed human’s best guess might be.

Wikipedia article on Alfred Stieglitz can be found here, and the Pallette web page, here.

process of colorizing Stieglitz photo “Venetian Courtyard”