Today’s English expression is to sift through. When you have a large number of items, but only a small percentage of those items is useful, you sift through the items. You look for what is useful. You’re looking for a small number of useful things in a large number of things in total.
When police investigate crimes, they have to sift through the evidence to see what can provide clues about the crime. Imagine someone sees a dead body in the woods. The police get to the scene of the crime and they find an empty bottle. Then they find a loose strand of hair. A bit farther, they find a discarded cell phone. Someone nearby gives a statement about what was happening on the previous night. The cell phone company provides the victim’s cell phone records.
Not all of this will be useful; in fact, most of it will not be useful. But the police have to sift through the evidence to find clues about what happened. They have to look through many, many piece of evidence and separate out only the piece of evidence that are useful to the investigation.
If there’s one English expression that describes the last few weeks of my life, it’s “sift through.” I haven’t mentioned this before, but I’m moving…and not across town, but to another country. I’m moving this week from Chicago to Mexico City. I don’t have the luxury of keeping all my belongings. I had to sift through my clothes to save only the items that give me joy—Marie Kondo would be proud!
I sifted through old photographs from previous vacations—going back a long time. I had lots of printed photographs, and lots of useless ones, too. Like, photographs of a random tree on a hill I don’t remember, photographs that were blurry, photographs that didn’t appear to show anything at all.
But, hidden in the middle of all that junk, there were photographs that were meaningful. So I had to sift through the photos to save the ones that were valuable, to save the ones that reminded me of previous travels or that brought back good memories. I only saved about one in ten pictures, but the ones I saved are valuable to me.
Earlier today, we debated whether images created with artificial intelligence are really “art.” I made the argument that they are. And one reason is that the computer generates many, many images in response to a single prompt. But the artist has to sift through all the generated images and choose the one that fits his or her vision.
There are some AI image generators, like the one I used, where you just type a few words and it creates one image. But most AI artists will do a lot more work, and the computers will generate many, many images. And it’s the artist’s job to sift through all the computer generated images and pick out the ones that truly capture the artist’s vision.
Quote of the Week
Today’s quote comes from George Bernard Shaw, an Irish playwright. He says, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” That showed up as a prompt in my journal app. It’s common for people to say in English that they have to “find themselves.” And that often comes when they’re unhappy or directionless. But this quote frames it a different way. George Bernard Shaw says, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
See you next time!
And that brings us to the end of today’s lesson, number 508 for Monday, October 3, 2022. And I think is going to be a great topic for an upcoming live call with Plus+ members. So here’s what I think we’ll do. We’ll use an artificial intelligence engine to create an image of own—don’t worry, it’s not hard—and then we’ll talk about the images that we create. So that will be the live call on Saturday, October 22.
This is the live conversation call that’s part of the Plus+ membership. So if you’re planning to join that call, check the instructions in your email or the dashboard for this call.
And if you’re not a Plus+ member yet, then consider this your invitation. You can join us on Saturday the 22nd and for all future live conversation calls. You can sign up at PlainEnglish.com/Plus.
That’s it for today—see you back here for a new lesson on Monday.