ugh, AI

I’ve mostly ignored the news about AI, even though I shouldn’t, but I just wanted to continue living in my little world of thinking that writing is produced by actual humans who experience something, or research something, or read other writers and then formulate thoughts and ideas and put those thoughts and ideas to paper or their tech of choice for someone else to read and have their own thoughts and ideas on.

I know it’s silly. There have been ways to get writing done without actually doing the writing well before AI came about.

But I make a living with words. My livelihood depends on brilliant but imperfect (human) writers, because everybody needs an editor, no matter how brilliant a writer they are. Even brilliant writers make mistakes, which editors are in the business of catching before a reader is any the wiser. (I’ve already written, rewritten, and edited this post multiple times, and I bet it’ll still end up with a typo or a word missing somewhere—there’s another truth about editing: it’s hard to edit your own writing.)

We are talking about AI at work. Writing things for our clients about AI and use of it in the workplace. I finally pushed past my (annoyance? disdain? unease?) about AI and got curious enough to create a ChatGPT account yesterday. Nervously, I typed in a prompt for a class assignment—one I’d already submitted, written with my own words and ideas—and watched as a short essay with five bullet points and an opening and closing paragraph appeared in less than 15 seconds. There were no typos or nonsensical text. It wasn’t horrible. The ideas and writing flowed okay. But it was dry, boring, and didn’t sound a bit like me.

I went about my work day and bugged a coworker, a writer who is more open to AI than me has already delved into it, to complain about my findings. I texted a friend and we wondered how teachers would have the bandwidth to weed out the AI from original work. I envisioned professors and teachers everywhere shaking fists skyward while reading boring AI-produced student submissions.

After work, I asked ChatGPT to write a blog post about middle aged women and feeling invisible. It gave me some decent points, something I might use as a start for an article about, you know, the reality of being a middle aged woman in America. But again, a regular snooze fest, dull and dry, formulaic, not blog-like at all. (Still no typos, much to my chagrin.)

fog on Lake Michigan (my photo, not AI-generated)

And then I asked for a poem about Lake Michigan. I’m pretty sure no poets are going out of work due to stanzas like this:

The beauty of your shoreline,
Is like a work of art,
A canvas painted by nature,
That touches every heart.

(AI-generated stanza of a poem about Lake Michigan)

Boring essays, blog posts, and poems aside, what are the ramifications here? Not everyone is a writer, and an AI generated response to a prompt might help someone with ideas or flow for their own work or assignment. In that respect, it’s just another tool in a writer’s toolbox, right? Conversely, if a writer doesn’t add something to their AI-generated work and passes it off as their own, what then? Potential for plagiarism? Dishonesty, at the very least.

There’s already a surfeit (oh I love that word) of content on the internet. Are we going to drown in even more of it, but with less soul and feeling and earnestness? Are we going to stop learning how to write essays, or poems, or articles, or verse, or plays, because all we have to do is type a prompt like “write a one-act play about menopause” and boom, we have a one-act play called “Hot Flashes and Cold Comfort” featuring Linda, a middle-aged woman going through menopause, and Dave, her husband, where one of Dave’s lines is “I know it’s tough, but you’re not alone. Lots of women go through menopause.” Dave, you asshole.

Like I said, I have somewhat buried my head in the sand about this issue, because my hope is that everyone enjoys writing the way I do. I’m certain I’ll only use AI for my own amusement, if I even use it at all. I don’t think AI will be replacing any of the writers I work with, either. And if I ever do end up editing AI-generated copy, I imagine my editing work will shift to adding life and feeling, a human and perhaps flawed tone. I’ll sure miss the typos, though.

I wrote a little piece about menopause

Should that headline be followed by “and lived to tell about it”? Or, “and didn’t die of embarrassment”? No. No it shouldn’t. It’s just menopause, and it happens to everyone with a uterus (oh, is that a scary word, too? sorry-not-sorry), which is a lot of people. C’mon. Bodies, functions, life. No biggie.

I don’t really talk about work here because this blog is a place for me to share my film photography and personal writing, but I did write this article and a terrific co-worker through some workplace magic got it to the right person who then got it to someone who wanted to publish it. So it’s a short article about how employers can support their employees going through menopause in the workplace. I’m proud of it. But there’s so much more to say.

I’m not an expert about menopause in the workplace. I work for a great company, an HR services company that helps employers stay compliant and do the right things for employees and for their business. I read plenty of articles about keeping millenials happy and engaged, and I see a lot of images of hip looking young people attached to these articles. But, most workplaces are made of multiple generations, and so many women I know are working their asses off right now, and I’m not really seeing articles about making sure we’re happy, engaged, fulfilled, and expanding in our positions. We’re just kind of there, plugging along, holding down all the forts, because it’s what we do.

Maybe the bigger issue is that women become invisible after a certain age. If we’re not sexy, we’re not terrifically useful anymore. And menopause, apparently, is not sexy. Personally (and again, I’m no expert here) I’m kind of thinking menopause is sexy. I mean, you don’t have to plan things around periods anymore. You don’t have to travel with all the accoutrements that periods demand (pads, tampons, period underpants, which are a real thing but I still take them to mean the ugliest, oldest skivvies in the back of your drawer that you save for when you’re on your period because they’re already ruined and you can’t ruin them any worse). And hot flashes? What’s sexier than stripping in the middle of whatever the hell you’re in the middle of because suddenly your body is like this incredible furnace that can heat up a room in seconds flat?

I don’t mean to be cavalier about the health aspects of it. Menopause has some issues aside from the physical nuisances, like osteoporosis and increased risk for heart disease. But, so does aging. The alternative is not being alive, because living is aging. And that’s not where I’d like to be.

So, anyway. I wrote a little work article about menopause and I hope I can write more articles about aging in the workplace. And, I’m lucky enough to be working for a company that values and honors me and other women at this stage in our lives. I hope you can say the same. But if you can’t, maybe take a chance and start talking about it at work. Maybe don’t be afraid to tell people what’s going on with you or if you’re struggling. I’ve had some interesting conversations since the article came out, and that’s where it starts.

navigating this in-between

I’m still still here. Hoping you are, too, without having been kicked around too much by what we’ve collectively gone through, now over a year of COVID, the end of a U.S. administration that tried our humanity, the beginning of a new one that maybe helps you breathe easier, too.

I realize what I just wrote there will connect with some who read this and will cause others to roll their eyes, stop reading, unfollow this blog. But there, I’ve said it. If you don’t know me personally or haven’t guessed from previous posts, I am a liberal, pro-human, science-believing, hate-hating human. I want everyone to feel safe, secure, loved, cared for. The last four years under the former president were traumatizing, and the final year of that administration felt like the icing on a great big shitcake.

I’m breathing again. I don’t flinch when I see a news update pop up on my phone (at least not as often–there is still dire news, but our current president’s reaction to it is more appropriate, without insults or hate-tweets or disinformation). And now, because people I love are getting vaccinated, I can see them, hug them, look at their whole faces and expressions. But this country is profoundly divided. I don’t know if it’s more divided than ever; it’s always been divided. It feels deeper to me. There is no meeting in the middle with people who believe something global and devastating is a hoax, or that helping their neighbors takes something away from them, or that trump’s version of a “great” America denies Americans whose ancestors built this country.

I don’t have answers, but I have some hope. I wish I’d have written here about how I was feeling a year ago when the virus began to unfold. How I felt when a knee on a neck made people take to the streets and demand the human rights they should already be afforded. How I worried about family and friends getting sick. How I felt when a friend suffered an unimaginable loss. How navigating grocery shopping turned into a political landmine. Staying quiet has been my protective blanket to avoid the uncomfortable. Staying home got comfortable. It will take me a while to feel safe outside of the cocoon.

I’ve missed my daughter and haven’t seen her in a year and a half, but she is well and safe. And, we will see her and her partner this summer. Our son, his partner, and another friend just came and stayed with us for two days. All grown young adults in their early 20s, they were happy to be parented a bit while recovering from their vaccines. We cooked for them, and it connected me to the memory of my mother doing the same. When I was in my early 20s and came to the cottage with my boyfriend, often bringing other friends, my mom was ebullient, cooking for us, starting spontaneous dance parties, organizing late night skinny dips, howling at the moon, staying up late into the night with us, wanting to know everything about our lives in the city. This part of parenting is delicious. Like when you have little kids and they fall asleep wrapped around you and you’re sweating and need to go to work or do dishes but it’s so painfully delicious that you’re not about to disturb them and so you stay, sweating, maybe with an arm or leg cramping beneath their weight, not doing what needs doing but wrapped in the biggest, yummiest love. It feels like that. Different, but just as delicious.

I’ve been busy, though. I am grateful to have a job that has kept me busy doing something I love and working with people I respect and admire, and for a company that I know values me. Even so, I’ve given a lot over the past year and haven’t allowed myself balance. I promised myself this year I’d take my PTO and I may need reminders to do that, but I’m committed.

My cameras need some love, too. I still have a shoebox of film, although I’m down to the oldest, most expired, and weirdest rolls at this point. I shot a few rolls over the last two months but am in no rush to get them developed. I’m not bored with my usual subjects, but I’m eager for some new scenery, a new town or woods, a new photographic find. I’m painting, and trying my hand at sketching. It feels good to create. It has always felt good to create.

Anyway. I am feeling some hope in what feels like an in-between time of still not-quite-right, but starting to get a little better. Spring brings growth and that is a physical manifestation of hope, at least for me. I don’t want to go back to what was our normal, because I don’t think it was particularly sustainable. I want to go forward to something else, something with a whole lot of love. I don’t want to use any energy toward anything else.


Sometimes I forget how lucky I am. I don’t write much about work here, but I have a pretty amazing job at a company that doesn’t scrimp on showing its employees that they are valued. More than that, though, it’s the people I work with. They make it all even better.

I spent a week in January at my company’s office in the San Francisco Bay, and while it was busy and I didn’t get to spend any time outside (my favorite thing) at least it was nice to have not only a change of scenery, but to be able to wear cute shoes and not ruin them because of snow and salt. I’m luckier still that my dear friend will be joining our team in just one week, and I will be flying again to California to help get her started.

I also think that it’s a luxury to have a job like this. I hear too many stories about people hating their job, their workplace, or their supervisors and tolerating those things, sometimes for decades, because they have to. I’ve either been lucky or I’ve played my cards right, but my career has been full of friends, mentors, and people I respect. I wish everyone had that.

Anyway, maybe because I was there three times last year, I’m starting to have dreams about California. It’s starting to feel more like home.

And I’m getting itchy for another non-work trip. I poked around a bit on Airbnb last night, dreaming of different skies. When I do that I feel like I’m half-here, half-somewhere else… one foot in my normal world. It’s a strange feeling, but not an unpleasant one.

But I also dream in pictures. And most of my pictures, or at least the ones I feel like I’m meant to be making, are here in Michigan and of the lake, the plants, the landscape I feel connected to.

These photos are from my first roll of film of 2018. It was snowing like mad and I left the cottage to wander into the meadow and woods with the Bronica SQ-A and a roll of Ilford FP4+. There are some odd lines on a few of these images and I’m not sure what might have caused them, but they are on the film and not just on the scans. I was more worried about correct exposure with all the white, but I either lucked out a bit or FP4+ is forgiving. Either way, I like my snowy shots and feel a little more comfortable shooting in the snow now, in terms of metering (it’s still challenging in terms of managing gear, snow on lenses, cold, and wetness!).


San Francisco

I’m so lucky. I traveled this past week for work, and I’m so lucky because I got to squeeze in an extra day of non-work, which I spent with a coworker doing the thing I like best (taking pictures) and catching up with her and you know, I don’t think we even talked about work at all. Suzanne, you rock.

I want you to know how hard it was for me to write the headline to this post. I’m bad at headlines. Usually literary phrases or lyrics or song titles come first to mind, and okay, sometimes I use those, but I feel like I’m cheating. I mean, who doesn’t leave their heart in San Francisco? And, yeah, now I know the way to San Jose. But those aren’t my words. So, just plain old San Francisco will have to do for this post, because that’s pretty much where I was. Or, the bay area. Or, is it Bay Area? (I’m still recovering from the whirlwind trip so I’m refusing to consult my sources to check which is correct.) I was in and around San Francisco and Sonoma for work, and it was all of these things: fun, exhausting, exhilarating, enlightening, and fantastic to be face-to-face with my coworkers.

But, pictures.

I’ve given no love to my digital camera in months, and because I was tasked with photos for a work outing while I was there, I took the digital camera. Which is, like me, showing its age. A rubber grippy part of it fell off last summer and I intended to glue it back on but never got around to it and now I don’t know where that part is. A plate on a button on top of the camera, the one that shows what mode you’re shooting in, fell off while on this trip. I haven’t lost that and I’ll probably glue that back on, but I don’t need to. I’ll admit I kind of like the camera better a bit worn and ratty looking. After using old film cameras that are metal, sturdy and more substantial feeling than a modern plastic DSLR, the plastic camera feels a bit, well, cheap. Ratty and imperfect are more my style anyway. And settling on one camera and one lens is a little hard for me, but I do like a challenge. So the clunky, somewhat ratty, DSLR with 17-55mm lens came with me, jammed into my backpack not carefully at all, and they did just fine.

Also after working with black and white film for the last four months I’ll admit the ease of upload and edits was (at least a little) fun. Maybe I even missed it a bit. But I still couldn’t help but make some of the fort images black and white, a little crusty and contrasty. Maybe a little like film. Whatever. Editing is such a personal thing, dependent on mood when you sit down to do it. At least for me.

Fort Point in the Presidio and Golden Gate Bridge

Fort Point inner courtyard

So, the Golden Gate Bridge and Fort Point in the Presidio. I’m not delving into any history here because you can go find that yourself. I’ll just say I love a space with brick, shadows, girders and trusses, some height, an underbelly. Some grit, some history, something that takes up a sizeable amount of space. This place hit all my buttons.

stairs and shadows

Driving through cities in the bay, the outer roads, hilly and winding roads in wine country, stuff that makes your heart jump a little with the beauty and the occasional fear of dropping off a cliff. There’s something almost a little too bright about California, too shiny, perfect and beautiful.

But I can’t get enough of it.

boats and field

house on stilts


Grammar crush

I absolutely love my job as a copy editor, and not just because I get to work from home (or from anywhere that has an Internet connection), but because I work with some of the best people I know. And because I get to fix stuff, and stew over stuff, and look up stuff to see how other people are doing (or writing, or saying) that stuff.

good morning, from my office

Yes, I’ll admit, sometimes it’s tedious. Like when I have to remove extra spaces because my coworkers are reluctant to adhere to our one space after punctuation style (but I still love them, and I don’t judge). But 99% of the time it’s fun, I get to flex my grammar muscles, and I get stymied by and also learn something every day.

Like today. I had to do some searching to see how the word “flip-flops” should be used. Hyphen? No hyphen? It’s not in my own product style guide so I didn’t have precedence. So I googled “flip flop hyphenate” and came across a Q&A article in the Washington Post* with a guy I’ve followed pretty much since the Internet showed up at the publishing company where I was working as a writer at the time. I admit it, I’ve had a grammar crush on Bill Walsh for 21 years. He’s quippy. He’s a bit flippant, but not condescending. He doesn’t stew over the rules. Be still my heart.

I love grammar. I love its conventions and rules, but I also love how it’s never static, and shifts in sometimes surprising ways. I love the things I dislike about it, even, like acceptance of certain usages that annoy me. I try, I really do try, not to be a snob about it because I am wrong sometimes often and I’m certain there are typos and incorrect usages in my own work. Feel free to point them out, even, if you’re so inclined. But ask me something about grammar, or usage, or style, or punctuation, and I will totally be in my element searching for an answer for you.

I’m smart enough to know there’s a lot I don’t know. So I’ll rely on the style books and websites like Bill’s and Common Errors (another favorite) to keep my writers sounding like the knowledgeable and intelligent people they are. Even if the grammar and usage bits only matter to me and a handful of other people.

*The article didn’t answer my question about hyphenating or not hyphenating flip-flop, although I opted for the hyphen based on other resources. And I was using flip-flop as in the footwear, not as in to be wishy-washy (ack! hyphen?) or indecisive, in case you were wondering (because you might be like me and wonder about these things). Or, more accurately, I think anyway, to change one’s mind. See? There’s a lot going on here. But aren’t we having fun?