Whale Walk

Center for Coastal Studies

The first North Atlantic right whale mother and calf pair has arrived in Cape Cod Bay. The Right Whale Ecology Program team from the Center for Coastal Studies (CCS) sighted the pair on March 18––Porcia, a 21-year-old right whale, and her newborn calf. They were first seen in late December off the coast of Georgia.

Yesterday, Susan and I were fortunate go on a Whale Walk sponsored by the Center. It turned out to not much of a walk because whales came close to shore next to the pavilion where we were supposed to start. They were relatively easy to see as they fed at the surface, so we had a sort of stationary walk.

We learned a useful tip from Jesse Mechling who led the group: If you see a large black rock moving across the water, it’s probably a right whale. There’s no evidence for black rocks off Cape Cod moving in that way.

Jesse showing baleen that right whales use to capture their principal food source, copepods

The North Atlantic right whales are critically endangered. There are fewer than 340 individuals left and only 80 breeding females. The principal factors in their decline are shipping and entanglement from fishing gear. They’re called “urban whales” because they’re trying to survive off the shore of dense human populations with some of the most active shipping and fishing in the world.

They’re also affected by global warming, which results in warming of the oceans, shifts in the populations of copepods, alterations of the feeding patterns of the whales, coming into the way of new harms, etc. These issues are discussed at our annual Wellfleet harbor conference.

Cape Cod Bay from the Herring Cove pavilion in Provincetown

I have very mixed feelings right now. On the one hand I feel incredibly fortunate to benefit from organizations such as the CCS and their public engagement programs. I love being able to go a short distance to see relatively unpolluted beaches and magnificent creatures such as the right whales, directly from shore.

But on the other hand, I feel shame knowing that my generation is responsible for the destruction of these whales and other wildlife, and the habitats that they need to survive.

Nuthatch ducks

Our rain chain goes through beautiful transformations as the water freezes or thaws, with differences for flash freezing versus slow, and with varying amounts of snow on the ice.

As the ice melts it makes tinkling sounds like a tiny wind chime.

I just watched a couple of nuthatches swimming in the barrel at the bottom. They took to the (freezing) water like tiny ducks.

Hózhó and the commons

A friend in Wellfleet, Ernie Bauer, makes things of function and beauty, especially in metal. A few years ago he made a sculpture inspired by the Navajo word, Hózhó. It stands near the post office and WHAT, the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater.

You can see it and its shadow in the photo above.

Hózhó is often translated as ‘balance and beauty’; it can also be seen as harmony, finding peace amidst the jagged ups and downs of life.

Hózhó also emphasizes how ephemeral aspects of the world can be linked into a more significant whole. This shows up in Navajo weaving and other art forms.

Two Grey Hills style rug, at the new Indiana University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

The concept of beauty in Hózhó extends beyond what can be perceived directly by the senses.  It implies orderly and harmonious relationships with other people, with the natural world, and with the world of spiritual beings and forces.

The estate of Elinor and Vincent Ostrom donated the rug shown above to the IU museum. It seems quite appropriate. Elinor Ostrom is best known for her work on how we can escape the “tragedy of the commons,” a phrase popularized by Garrett Hardin. For this work she became the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics.

Ostrom’s work examined how societies have found ways to manage natural resources and avoid ecosystem collapse. Like the rugs she donated, it’s a realization of the Hózhó idea of living in harmony with others and with the natural world.

Too few people notice Ernie’s Hózhó sculpture. It treads softly. It’s in harmony with the semi-natural area where it stands.

In Wellfleet, the post office and the theater serve as a commons without people needing the sculpture to remind them. They visit with friends and enjoy community events.

But in a larger sense, I fear that humanity is playing out the dystopic scenarios of Garrett Hardin. Can we ever find ways to work together as Ostrom showed is possible?

Alien balloon

A balloon of unknown origin appeared in our yard this week. It was first stuck in a maple tree, but later ended up on our woodpile.

On closer examination I determined that it was “Made in China.” Some may want to claim that it’s just a weather balloon, but I’m convinced it had another purpose.

Apparently this kind of thing is happening everywhere––Montana, South Carolina, Columbia, …

The wild Outer Cape

Visitors to Cape Cod, especially those making it as far as the outer, aka lower, Cape should prepare themselves for wild behavior.

The area is known for its unconventional artists, poets, playwrights, and anarchists, but especially for its bohemian lifestyle and flouting of ordinary social rules.

There are stories of daring costumes, or no clothes at all. The house at 592 Commercial St. in Provincetown could on its own surpass what one might see in a lifetime in an ordinary town.

If you don’t believe that the Outer Cape deserves its reputation for creativity, daring, and non-conformity, just look at the unstaged, unedited photo here. It shows the complete set of visitors around 3 pm today at the Wellfleet library.

Notice the variation in color, from blue-green to green-blue. I’ll admit that that they’re all late model, greenish Subaru Foresters, but look closely and you’ll see fantastic variation in model year and features. One even has stickers on the back panel.

ChatGPT tells a story

Like many others, I’ve recently been introduced to ChatGPT (developed by OpenAI) and wondered about its potential for both good and ill.

As it says when asked, “What is the GPT-3 Chatbot?”:

The GPT-3 Chatbot is a chatbot system developed by OpenAI that utilizes the GPT-3 model… to generate responses in real-time conversations with users… [This] is a large and powerful artificial intelligence (AI) model that has been trained on a vast amount of data and is capable of generating human-like text… [It] can engage in natural language conversations with users and provide responses that are similar to those that a human might give.

I decided to see how well it could write a formulaic story. It’s not bad, if you like formulas.

Notice what it does at the end. So much for the infinite patience of robots!

The headings in bold below are my prompts.

Write an introduction to a boy meets girl story

Once upon a time, in a small town nestled in the rolling hills of rural America, there lived a young man named Jack. Jack was a kind and gentle soul, with a heart full of love and a mind full of curiosity. He spent his days working on the family farm, tending to the animals and the crops with a diligent and caring hand.

One day, as Jack was out for a walk, he happened upon a young woman named Jill, who was sitting by the side of the road, looking lost and alone. Despite his reservations, Jack couldn’t ignore the tug of his heartstrings and he approached her, offering his assistance.

From that chance encounter, a beautiful friendship blossomed, as Jack and Jill spent more and more time together, exploring the wonders of the world around them and learning about each other’s hopes, dreams, and desires.

As they grew closer, it became clear to both of them that their feelings went beyond mere friendship. And so, with hearts full of love and a deep understanding of one another, they embarked on a journey together, hand in hand, as they navigated the ups and downs of life and all it had to offer.

Thus began the tale of Jack and Jill, a story of love, friendship, and the magic that can happen when two people come together and open their hearts to one another.

Continue with a complication, perhaps that Jill meets someone new.

As Jack and Jill’s love grew stronger and their bond deepened, everything seemed perfect. They spent every moment they could together, exploring the countryside and dreaming about their future.

But one day, a complication arose when Jill met a charming and handsome young man named Tom. Tom was everything that Jack wasn’t – suave, sophisticated, and confident. He swept Jill off her feet and she couldn’t help but be drawn to him.

Jack was heartbroken when he found out about Tom, and he struggled to understand why Jill would be interested in someone other than him. He tried to push down his feelings of jealousy and resentment, but it was difficult.

Despite his love for Jill, Jack couldn’t deny that he felt threatened by Tom’s presence in her life. He knew that he had to do something to win her heart back, but he wasn’t sure what.

As he wrestled with his feelings, Jack began to realize that he couldn’t compete with Tom’s charms and charisma. He knew that he had to find a way to show Jill that he was the one for her, not Tom.

With a heavy heart, Jack set out to prove his love for Jill and win her back. He knew it wouldn’t be easy, but he was determined to do whatever it took to prove his worth and show her that he was the one she was meant to be with.

Continue by relating how Jack decides to take on a seemingly impossible task to prove his love.

As Jack struggled with his feelings of jealousy and insecurity, he knew he had to do something drastic to win Jill back. He racked his brain, trying to come up with a grand gesture that would prove to her how much he loved her.

Finally, he hit upon an idea. He remembered a legend that had been passed down through the generations in their small town, about a magical fountain that granted wishes to those who found it. According to the legend, the fountain was hidden in a secret location deep in the forest, and only those who were pure of heart and true of spirit could find it.

Jack knew that finding the fountain would be a nearly impossible task, but he was determined to try. He believed that if he could find the fountain and make a wish for Jill’s love, it would prove to her once and for all how much he cared for her.

So, with a fierce determination in his heart, Jack set out on his quest. He braved the dangers of the forest, facing all manner of obstacles and challenges along the way. And finally, after days of searching, he stumbled upon the fountain.

As he stood there, gazing into the crystal clear waters, he knew that this was his chance. He closed his eyes and made his wish, pouring all of his love and devotion into it.

And when he opened his eyes, he saw a miracle before him. The waters of the fountain began to glow with a soft, golden light, and a gentle breeze rustled through the trees. Jack knew that his wish had been granted, and he couldn’t wait to share the news with Jill.

He rushed back to town, eager to tell Jill about the fountain and his wish for her love. And when he finally found her, he knew that everything was going to be all right. Because he had proven to her, beyond a shadow of a doubt, just how much he loved her.

Continue by relating how Jack takes on an even greater task.

Despite the happy ending, Jack and Jill’s love faced one more challenge. A few years after they had married and started a family, a group of bandits attacked their town, threatening to take everything they held dear.

Jack knew that he had to do something to protect his family and his home, and so he set out on yet another quest, determined to defeat the bandits and restore peace to the town.

This time, Jack’s task was greater than anything he had ever faced before. The bandits were well-armed and well-trained, and they outnumbered him and his fellow townsfolk by a wide margin. But Jack refused to let that stand in his way.

He spent days and nights training and preparing, gathering a small group of like-minded individuals who were willing to stand up to the bandits and fight for their home.

Finally, the day of the showdown arrived. Jack and his group faced off against the bandits, fighting with all of their might and determination. The battle was fierce and brutal, but in the end, Jack and his companions emerged victorious.

The bandits were defeated and peace was restored to the town. Jack and Jill were hailed as heroes, and they lived out their days in happiness, knowing that they had done everything in their power to protect the ones they loved.

And so, the tale of Jack and Jill came to a close, a story of love, adventure, and the power of the human spirit to overcome even the greatest of challenges.

Continue by telling how Jack takes on an even greater task.

Despite their victory over the bandits, Jack and Jill knew that their work was far from done. They had a family to protect and a town to rebuild, and they were determined to do whatever it took to create a better future for themselves and those around them.

And so, Jack set out on yet another quest, this time to find a way to improve the lives of his fellow townsfolk and bring prosperity back to the community.

He traveled far and wide, seeking out new ideas and technologies that could help to modernize the town and make it a better place to live. He worked tirelessly, never stopping until he had found the answers he was looking for.

And after many months of hard work and dedication, Jack’s efforts paid off. He returned to the town with a host of new ideas and innovations, and with the help of Jill and the rest of the community, they began to put them into action.

The town began to thrive once again, and Jack and Jill were hailed as heroes once more. They lived out their days in happiness, knowing that they had done everything in their power to create a brighter future for themselves and those around them.

And so, the tale of Jack and Jill came full circle, a story of love, adventure, and the never-ending quest to make the world a better place.

The end.

New Year ~ New Mindset(s)

Abi Reynolds has a good summary of learning and unlearning in her blog post.

the UX Factor

Another January and another opportunity to stop, reflect, and learn. Learning is an important skill to have as a designer/researcher and, I think it makes life more interesting!

I recently came across two new (to me) learning concepts that I will be looking to bring a bit more into 2022.

  1. ‘Abeginner mindset’ – taking the approach of looking at things as if I am completely new to them.
  2. And ‘learning to unlearn’ – looking to let go of previous learning to make space for new learning and ways of doing things

Why do we need to try these? To stop us from making assumptions, be more creative and make us more open to new ideas and ways of doing things. To help us grow.

Go ahead and ‘disrupt’ yourself this year.

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The Blob

I just watched the original The Blob, starring Steve McQueen. A great movie if there ever was one. See the trailer.

Now I want to go to Phoenixville, PA, one of the sites for the film. This year’s Blobfest will be on July 8-10.

The last four lines are even more relevant during climate crisis:

Dave: They’re flying it to the Arctic. 

Steve: It’s not dead, is it?

Dave: No, it’s not. Just frozen. I don’t think can be killed. But at least we’ve got it stopped. 

Steve: Yeah, as long as the Arctic stays cold.

The Fulbari resort in Pokhara

Fulbari Resort & Spa

The Fulbari Resort and Spa in Pokhara, Nepal, was envisioned as the country’s most luxurious and only 5-star resort. It would re-imagine architectural wonders of the golden age when Newari kings ruled in the Kathmandu Valley, supplemented with a golf course, spas, casino, and other modern amenities. 

Set on a high bluff, with 26 acres, Fulbari, meaning “flower garden,” offers panoramas of Fishtail and Annapurna mountain ranges to the north and the Seti River gorges to the south.

In 2018, we stayed at a much more modest place in Pokhara, but I wish that we had at least visited Fulbari.

It’s now facing foreclosure, a victim of the general economic difficulties in Nepal and recently of Covid-19.

Herring on the run

Blueback herring on the Herring River, Wellfleet

The lilacs are blooming and the buttercups brighten the river banks, so the blueback herring are swimming upstream to spawn. We counted 89 in one ten-minute stretch this week, thus honoring World Fish Migration Day.

The herring do surprisingly well, despite the constricted tidal flow in the river. Their biggest problem comes at the culverts. Fortunately for them, the one near our count site did not have a snapping turtle, raccoon, or crow waiting on the upstream side.

Culvert on the Herring River, to be enlarged as part of the project to restore the Herring River estuary.

We love seeing the herring. They tell us that the river, although damaged, is not dead.

A friend and neighbor says that she loves the herring, too, especially when they’re pickled with peppercorns and bay leaves, then served with onions. That was possible in the days when the river flowed freely. Our hope is that fishing, shellfishing, birdwatching, boating, and more can return when the river is restored.