Anticipation Grows Again

Anticipation is definitely something I’ve felt around this time of year.  And who has more anticipation than a young child?   When I was little, Christmas was one of my favorite days.  I’d count down to it, plan my present giving strategy, maybe practice my lines for the yearly pageant.  I’d lay awake nights watching the beautiful Christmas lights on the tree through a myopic fog that made them look glowing and mysterious, rather like this photo.

Growing older, I’ve tried to learn to uncouple anticipation from expectation, and thus, disappointment.  Oddly, I’ve found a small glow of anticipation for the holiday season again.  It’s only been made possible by studiously ignoring all the glitz in the stores, the over inflated artificial hype.  That’s easier since my TV turns on only occasionally and I haven’t watched even one movie in quite a few months.  Commercials are my bane and I avoid them, the only ones I hear are from the radio.

With the reduction of the pressure of commercialism, I find that there is still a soft little place in my heart that I can leave open to anticipation.  I think about finding something nice to do for one of my coworkers, who seems rather lost and unloved.  I quietly plan a cookie baking day, so I can invite my neighbor over, so she, my spouse and I can bake cookies and I can teach her to bake bread.  The plan is to distribute small packages of cookies to all my close neighbors.  I think, “maybe a few strings of lights to celebrate the Winter Solstice would be  nice.”

Slowly, gently, anticipation grows again.  The holidays start to be about people I care about and doing nice things for others, as well as enjoying good food and fun times.  I remember being that kid who used to look at the Christmas tree through a half open door.

 

via Daily Prompt: Anticipation

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/anticipation/

Flames of warmth and destruction

Fire and flames have been rather central to my life.

When I was young, I kept warm at a stove just like this – it provided all heat and ability to trash burner 1000.JPGcook.  My parents scavenged for wood at local building sites and behind supermarkets, burning scrap lumber and cut up old pallet boards.  I was used to fire, used to tending it.  I was as used to this as most are used to flipping on a light switch.  Later, when I owned my own home, 110 years old with faulty baseboards, I relearned how comforting flame is.  I love campfires.

I also learned respect for fire as my house burned down when I was six – it was fall, promising a hard winter in northern Idaho, the stove pipe was too close to the cedar shake siding, and we lost everything.

Fire is warmth and destruction, energy of creation and consuming anger.  As with all things, the internal flames of emotion are useful and warm when banked properly, the damper’s set just right, and you use good dry fuel.

Just like fire, the flames of emotion can be destructive or choke you out with smoke that makes it impossible to see when not tended properly, or allowed to get out of hand.

The mind, rational thought, is like that careful homeowner who sets the wood just right, keeps things managed, so you can warm your fingers and toes and boil a pot of tea.  Then emotion becomes something to inform and inspire you, not something that clouds the truth of how the world really is, or makes you sensitive to every little slight so you spend your life being consumed by the fire of rage.

via Daily Prompt: Flames

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/flames/

The Giant Prickly Pear Cactus Tree

Cacti grow large here in Arizona.  However, usually they don’t grow beyond a certain level – the size seen up in the featured image, in fact.  I normally don’t see them grow more than four or feet tall at most, usually less.

That was, until I saw this old girl.

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There she is, roughly eight to ten feet tall, and so big and old that she’s actually developed bark on her trunk.  Now THAT’S a cactus.  Here’s another view from the same walk.

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It’s a little hard to tell scale because of the angle, but she’s big.  Dare I say…

 

…a Giant?

 

via Daily Prompt: Giant

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/giant/

 

Artificial Intelligence – Thoughts of an Aircraft

This challenge made me think of an ultra-short story I wrote a while back about an aircraft that was controlled by an AI and was wondering what they wanted to do with their life.

Anyone interested can read that story here:  Thoughts Of An Aircraft

Considering that any computer or group of computers with enough interconnections could possibly “wake up,” and our brains are nothing but biological computers, some say the internet might wake up someday.  Some say it already has.  I still say hello sometimes, in the Google search box.  Sometimes… it almost seems as if I get an answer.

I play a lot with the idea of created intelligence.  Once I wrote a short-short story about a group of seven nodes of a single AI, each node consisting of an android body but sharing a common, highly advanced program.  They had been bought by an eccentric gentleman to see if he could convince them to wake up by treating them if they were collectively alive.

The very questions of human existence are locked up in this type of discussion – what does it really mean to be not just a living being, but a person?  Where does self awareness start?  My cat is self aware.  How complex does a system really have to be before it wakes up?

Also, as we develop prosthetic body parts, which we are already doing – artificial hearts, cochlear implants, soon artificial eyes, and currently even brain controlled prosthetic limbs, will that make us any less human?  Or is it just an extension of our mastery of tool use?

I’ll close here with a joke.  I’m not quoting it exactly here, and I think it came from the William Gibson novel Neuromancer, though I can’t exactly recall.

A powerful AI was created to solve Japan’s rice growing crisis.  Scientists wrote the finest code, run on the best computer that could be built.  All data that could be gathered about soil quality, weather, rainfall estimates, and plant growth rates was loaded into the computer’s memory.  Finally they turned it on.

They knew they had created a true Artificial Intelligence when the program woke up, chewed over the data, and finally said “Screw you, Jack, I don’t eat rice!”

 

 

via Daily Prompt: Artificial

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/artificial/

 

 

From Subdued to Superb

via Daily Prompt: Subdued

 

I love taking pictures of the moon, and I finally have a camera that will do it, however the photos are often grainy.  What’s an amateur lunar photographer to do, especially on an evening when there’s obstructions in the way, but that moon coming up over the city is so beautiful?

Photoshop?

Not for me – I use GIMP, the free art program.

Through judicious use of the clonestamp, fuzzy select, gaussian blur, and layers features this subdued image was totally rehabbed.  Clone stamping near parts of the sky got rid of the power line, selecting just the moon itself then putting it on another layer so we could blur the rest got rid of all those speckles, and a simple “white balance”operation cleared up much of the atmospheric haze on the moon itself.

Here’s a better view.

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Don’t be (quite so) careful

via Daily Prompt: Careful

I was a very careful child.

“Be careful!”  “Don’t drop it!”  “Don’t cut yourself!”

I think I’ve only cut myself once, and that was by accident, when I was carving my best friend’s name into a piece of wood.    I almost never drop things. I’ve never broken a bone.  I’ve never hit another car in traffic.  You could say I’m careful.

But I’m also rather neurotic, ruled by fear, and terrified of taking risks.  I’m overweight because I didn’t run, jump and play enough – in part, I was afraid of getting hurt.  I was careful.  I listened to people too much when I was young.  I didn’t develop a healthy sense of rebellion either.  I learned the fine art of sneaking instead.  “Be careful” turned into “don’t appear to do,” or “don’t try at all.”

Sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to make mistakes.  We need to try new, audacious things.  Stretch outside of the other-made prison of careful.  Take risks.  Move past fear so we can see the other side – then instead of careful, be mindful.

Mindfulness means we think about what we do, we look at it, but we weigh the risks and sometimes we decide a risk is worth it.  It’s being careful in a new way.  The way I did it as a child, it was fear motivated.

“Whatifwhatifwhatif?”

That consumed my young life.

“Well, so what?”

The mistake might not be so bad and the result not the end of the world.

Mistakes can be recoverable.    In the meantime, that scary trip you wanted to take but were afraid to?  Take it.  That exercise class that’s a little too vigorous?  Do it.  Be mindful, and fear won’t rule you.  Sometimes being a little less careful can lead to learning.