Sunday, April 30, 2023

Pistols at Noon

There's a hut in the bush close to my place. It's called Old Smoky because the fireplace doesn't work that well. Old Smoky is on the same property as mine. It's clad in blue asbestos and corrugated iron and the floorboards are made of jarrah timbers. The windows are not glass but plastic blinds. There is no toilet and only the remains of a gas shower.

The whole while I've lived here, a man by the name of Wally stays in Old Smoky on occasion. He always comes over to say hi and let me know that he's in the vicinity. After that, we leave each other alone. He walks out a mullet net in the evenings and sometimes brings me some fillets. He'll bring a load of split jarrah for firewood and stash it in the old rainwater tank, set sideways, like another hut or shelter but to keep warmth and cooking fuel dry, not people..

The commercial fishermen came one year and moved into Old Smoky. Chicky and Brownie found Old Smoky a welcome refuge from camping on beaches in tents. The hut is on private property but they just moved in anyway. I go visit them and sometimes partake in their moonshine. It's rough liquor and the air in the hut is always smoky and close. Brownie chainsmokes tailormades and Chicky is the one who makes the liquor. Chicky and Brownie sleep on swags laid across iron bedstands.

Last year, another man came to stay in Old Smoky. He was confused and alone, a dislocated product of divorce, a lack of meds and the pandemic. I know he'll hate me for saying this, but that is what I saw. He gave me some soap and incense which was a nice gist and told me he was moving into the hut.

So while I was used to Wally and his respectful ways around Old smoky and while I was used to the fishermen turning up when the inlet opened for netting seaon, this Bear Grylls character was a new one. He was trying to do a Broke Inlet version of the TV series Alone except that it also involved asking me to charge his mobile phone on my solar system's inverter and lend him twenty bucks when he ran out of wine.

So. That was a bit weird and I expressed as much to Wally next time he turned up. He was kind of incensed. Not about me having an odd neighbour but that someone was moving into his hut. It's not Wally's hut but Wally was still pissed. After three weeks Bear Grylls gave up on his plan of living off the land and moved back to Albany. On my trips to the city I still occasionally see him walking up the main street in his camo gear and DriZaBone..

Then the fishermen moved in again. They burnt all of Wally's split jarrah, that load of wood Wally had so covetously collected and stashed. They burnt it in the dodgey fireplace Old Smoky is famous for, over the whole netting season. Wally came back in the spring to find all his firewood gone. So now was he doubly pissed. Not only have people been using his hut (which he does not own) but they've taken all of his fucking firewood! (Fair call)

Wally fortifies the door and puts a padlock on Old Smoky. He plants some tomatos, chillies and a lemon tree over the mullet frames he's buried. This is a territorial war,verified by vegetables. I know I've gone from past tense to present tense but shit is getting real now folks. Bear with me.

Today, the fishermen returned and Wally was waiting for them. He knew they'd be here on the first of May and he moved his whole famility into Old Smoky for two weeks. Brownie and Chicky came up from the beach to see me, after they'd launched the boat and moored it in the inlet. 'Wally's in Old Smoky?' Chicky asked me.

'Yes,' I said. 'Would you like to borrow my tent?'

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

The automaton and the writer child

 Re my last post, this is interesting: I love this video

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Using artificial intel in academia and real life

Since ChatGPT came in late November 2022, there's been a heap of chatter in academia about how to go about marking essays. I was talking to a fellow tutor today who has just marked about 150 essays in the sciences department and they reckon about 75% were written using AI. Or that AI wrote these essays. Pick your weapons here.

I can just imagine those dispiriting hours, trawling over essays that have been written by a bot and trying to work out which students have written their own work and whatnot. The standard plagiarism software that crawls the web doesn't work here, so it's up to the tutor to work out whether or not someone has plugged in some commands to a chat bot to create the perfect essay.

So far, with such small classes, I haven't had to encounter it so far. Plus working in the Humanities areas of creative writing and the classics of English literature, the emphasis for essays is on individual takes rather than regurgitating facts. There has always been a bit of essay sharing stuff going on but that stuff is easily picked up.

My feeling is that a lot of students are relying on their final marks, as opposed to actually learning anything. High marks lead to scholarships, placements and doctorate awards. These awards are worth $$$K. So regularly handing in a perfect essay using a chat bot probably works for them. That's my devil's advocate argument. If you are paying a shitload for a degree, then why not monetise the said degree?

Personally, I see AI like ChatGPT as being useful for grunt work, and quite often women's work. That grant application, that letter to a politician, that job requiring vacuuming the lint out of corners. The demeaning or tedious work could be done by a bot. Toilets are a pretty good example. I'm all for bots cleaning our toilets. In education it gets spicier.

In intellectual property rights, it gets spicier still. I can ask ChatGPT to write a story based on Sarah Toa's A WineDark Sea and it will crawl the web, find my content and produce a story. No IPR are attributed to me but the 'writer' can add commands like 'make it funnier' or 'make it more heartfelt' and it will proceed to churn out a blog post pretty much the same tone as me writing. 

The local newspaper has been using AI for a while now. Like I said, women's work. They've been struggling for funding and/or advertisers and this is the easy way for the editor to go. It's ... yes it's awful ... but it's here.

Friday, April 14, 2023

You shall not pass

This morning, driving to work, I nearly got cleaned up by another four wheel drive. The exodus out of this holiday town after the Easter long weekend is always pretty hectic and there can be some bad behaviour on the highway. This morning, a man towing his boat was temporarily inconvenienced by some boomers crawling up a long hill with their caravan. He lost his patience and tried over-taking the caravan on double white lines. Blind corner.

I came around said blind corner and this guy towing the boat was right there. It was looking like a head-on crash. He had nowhere to go and I had nowhere to go except the soft gravel shoulder, which I took to at about 90 kilometres per hour. Then he threw out an anchor, slipped back in behind the caravan again and gave me a cheery wave. The two cars continued, one towing a caravan, the other a boat, heading home from the holiday town.

I had to stop the car and take a few minutes to collect myself. That wave was weird. He'd nearly  killed several people ... and he just fucking waves?

I was a bit late to work and still rattled when I got there. Now that the fire season is drawing to a close, one of my other jobs is in a place called The Valley of the Giants. The Giants is in reference to the Tingle trees, three kinds of Eucalypt that only grow in this area. Tingles have a character all to their own amongst the Karris and Marris. Remember the Ents from Lord of the Rings? These trees are like Ents. They are warty and wizened and live for centuries. You can just imagine them scooping up doomed warriors and marching them to safety. Except the Tingles themselves are in trouble, due to a changing climate and declining rainfall. They are remnant citizens from another era.

The sky walk is a steel structure based on suspension bridge engineering which takes tourists through the canopies of these trees. The sky walk sways and breathes as you walk along it. At 40 metres above the forest floor with seemingly little between yourself and certain death, it can sometimes feel like your body is screaming no no no!

One of my favourite jobs is not in the gift shop but up on pylon 2, the second highest pylon at about 38 metres. At that height, I'm in the canopy. Trees are breathing all around me. It's almost pure oxygen. It smells amazing.

Today, after my near-fatal on the roads, I got up there and watched the wind rip across the top of the trees. The thinner Yellow Tingles swayed and swirled. Pylon 2 swayed too. The stoic Red Tingles stayed stoic. It began to rain and then it began to hail! Bright little buckshots of ice bounced on the checkerplate steel, the air electrified with nitrogen. I had my overcoat and umbrella and watched as tourists straggled towards me, hailstones bouncing off green umbrellas and 3 dollar rain ponchos, those beautiful trees beside me, just breathing out oxygen.

Saturday, April 8, 2023

Theseus' Car

 Wow ... March 8th was my last post. Well it's fitting that it is now April 8th. Do any of you other bloggers have that sick sense in the stomach for not fulfilling everyone else's requirements? I do, but hell, I've been busy.

Here is me in my rabbit coat with another mammal friend Harry. Harry is one of those friends who I don't see often these days. He waits until the initial excitement and greetings are over, then jumps into my lap for a personal gidday. My dog is thirty times his size but Harry has swag and has always held it over the rottweiler cross. He no cute lapdog, this one is the Black Prince.

In other news, I'm still replacing parts of my car, hence this post's title. The car is now at least twenty years old and I'm coming to the space where I have regular conversations with my mechanic on the Greek Myths. Like, if I replace every part of this car, is it still the same car? Should I replace it with a new car? Covid made prices for new or second hand four wheel drives go through the roof. To maintain an old four wheel drive means pretty much replacing everything. My mechanic is remaining stoic on the subject of Theseus. I did notice however, that his wife keeps a ball of string behind the counter.

This week is the end of fire season for me, so all those kilometres of driving summer gravel roads are coming to pay me back re the yearly fuel allowance. A new turbo charger (the seals were damaged due to corrugations and it's now leaking oil) plus some new shockies (obvs!). In previous years, I've replaced the head, the gearbox, the tyres, a few panels and a roo bar.

Anyway, enough about the car and fuck Theseus' boat. Here's some photos of eagles. Terribly sorry if you associate with Prometheus. You know, livers etc etc.