Archives for the month of: September, 2013

Grammar nazism is a populist movement.  Why?  Because all you need is a single factoid and you can spend weeks acting high and mighty.  All you’ve really done is identify a point of difference between your community and another community in linguistic evolution.  That’s not to say that one of you isn’t wrong in the academic sense.  But the wrongness of someone’s grammar or speech is contingent on them caring about being right in the academic sense.

Well for all of you who really do want to be right, here are a hefty handful of expressions that people constantly get wrong.  If the first and second and even third bother you too, just wait.  You’ll be embarrassed before long.

WRONG: I could care less
RIGHT: I couldn’t care less

If you could care less that means you are above a zero on the scale of caring.  It does not denote an upper limit, simply that your level of care is between infinite and the smallest measure of care.

WRONG: For all intensive purposes
RIGHT: For all intents and purposes

The intensiveness of the purposes is not in question, so why would you bring it up?  And what kind of thing is acceptable for intensive purposes and not for everyday purposes?  Carpet shampoo?  Dump trucks perhaps?

WRONG: Hone in
RIGHT: Home in

I think you all know what it means to hone something and it would be too condescending to explain.

WRONG: Each one worse than the next
RIGHT: Each one worse than the last

If each one were worse than the next, then things would be constantly improving.  Of course there is a temporal paradox contained in this statement, but regardless, it’s nonsense.

WRONG: Dumb as a doorknob
RIGHT: Dumb as a doornail

A doorknob is a perfectly useful object which, as far as I can see, should be no dumber than any other inanimate object.  On the contrary, a doornail is designed expressly to be beaten on the head by a steel pin for its whole life.  That’s why it’s dumb.

God it feels good to get that off my chest.  I could go on, but I’d rather save some for later.

I do feel somehow that this kind of post trespasses on the good will of my readers, and so I submit myself to any criticism.  Please find a mistake in one of my posts and ruthlessly shame me for my stupidity.

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It has become a cliche to say that self-centered people spend their time googling themselves.  There are a few reasons this doesn’t make sense.

Many people who use the internet are not self-promoting, they are not trying to craft an image for themselves or drive traffic to their content.  Indeed many internet users have no content.  If you are in that category then googling yourself should yield no results.  Another option is that you are so popular in the wider world that people create content about you – you’re a celebrity – and your narcissistic behavior is most likely justified.

The third option is that you are like me and you are building a public image and a skill set based around the inner workings of search engines and other internet tools.  In that case, googling yourself is a purely intellectual endeavor.  You could even call it professional development.

Well I partook in some professional development last night and I was a little disturbed at what I found.  The first results google turns up are my linkedin profile, posts from this blog, my twitter feed, my youtube channel, posts from futureofnuclear.com (another blog I write), and other things I’ve created that have my name stamped on them.  But interspersed with these links are links like this one and many more like it.  Next I went over to the images section and when I google my name I get this:Picture 2My apologies friends, dad, and Patrick Watson for dragging you into my social media vortex!  I seem to have so over-saturated the internet with content that one persona alone cannot contain it.

I don’t know what to make of all this.  Have I over-marketed myself?  If an employer were to google me would they see how aptly I have manipulated the google crawlers, or would they see only a picture of me with a foo-manchu?  It’s difficult to say.  I’ll have to ponder it further, and maybe rethink my personal marketing strategy.  At least I can breathe knowing that, if you leave out my middle name, you just get pictures of a certain elderly gay wizard whose name I don’t share.  Luckily people misspell his name a lot more than I write mine.

Balance restored.

Often history is depressing and forces us to be realists.  Often it’s only the ironies that we can enjoy.  But sometimes we see a tiny glimpse of cosmic justice (a glimpse tiny enough to demonstrate the utter lack of cosmic justice) and we can revel in the satisfaction of our fairy tale expectations.  This is one such story:

For many decades, whalers would bring the whales they had caught to the Falkland Islands to process their catch.  This meant burning the whale to melt the blubber and produce whale oil.  But the Falkland Islands have no trees to burn so the whalers had to make use of whatever tinder was at hand.  As it happens, penguins were both plentiful and covered in a healthy layer of flammable oil.

So the whalers would build a great pyre of burning penguins to roast their whales.  After a while the populations of the four penguin species were dangerously small.

But salvation was at hand!  Argentina wanted to reclaim the islands from Britain and the Falklands war ensued.  By the end of the war, 20 000 land mines were laid on the island making it extremely dangerous for whalers to do their business there.  But penguins are rather light, so light that their tiny bodies can’t trigger the land mines.  The whaling and the penguin burning has stopped, and the penguin population has recovered.

I think the moral of this story is: don’t be so quick to condemn land mines?

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Forest conservation: you’re doing it wrong.IMG_8398 IMG_8399

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I’ve recently come in contact with a door that’s got me thinking.  It’s the sort of door that requires a key to be in the lock and turned 180 degrees to open the door.  This normally isn’t a problem at all if the door is a push, or if there is enough friction between the key and the tensioned locking mechanism to let you pull the door open with the key.  This particular door requires one hand turning the key and another hand on the handle pulling the door open.  So when I arrive with something in my hand I have to put it down, open the door, wedge the door open with my foot or shoulder, pick up my package, and go inside.

Why am I talking about doors you might ask?  Because I live in a discordant world.  How can I be a minimalist and a consummate consumer?  How can I admire tradition and progress?  How do I worship engineering, technology, and, science, robotics, nano-technology, quantum computing, and everything science has given us and yet admire the beauty of a hand forged nail, a hand hewn beam, a beautifully made class-A amplifier, or a perfectly tuned petrol engine?

Well lets go back to the door.  Doors have more-or-less been perfected.  They’ve been the same for a while now.  I admire a good door, a door that works well and that never gets in my way, and especially a door that has been doing it for decades.  This is why it’s such a failure of human intelligence to have a two-handed door.  To this point I have the utmost admiration for design and engineering.

What about an automatic door?  Is it necessary or good to take something as simple and functional as a door and install a motor so that it can be opened with no hands?  In my mind this is one step too far.  This is taking technology and making life so much more complicated than it needs to be.

For almost every application, there is a point where simplicity, minimalism, and longevity is maximized and perfect convenience is almost maintained.  Consider a bicycle.  Besides very small improvements, they haven’t changed much in 40 years.  Or consider a stove-top kettle.  It’s cheap, it lasts for decades, and it whistles when it’s boiled.  How much has the electric kettle improved your quality of life?  Did you bemoan the fact that your car windows had to be rolled down before power windows were standard?  Just think about all the tiny little conveniences in your car!  Imagine if all the time and money spend developing and installing gizmos was spend designing an efficient and reliable engine.  Imagine if all the engineers who develop hair driers, coffee grinders, electric blinds, touch-screen central air controllers, GPS enabled smart-phone cameras, and every other gadget you own were working on a clean energy source for the planet.

I suppose what I’m proposing is a cost/benefit analysis for technology.  If you had to pay for it, would you install an automatic door at the grocery story?  Would you employ an engineer to invent such a machine, and a mechanic to install it?  I think not.

The collective human genius would be better spent solving problems bigger than the minor inconveniences in your life.  Bigger problems, or fixing my door.