Day 4 Of My Captivity

Due to a combination of extremely unfortunate scheduling conflicts and surprising velocity in modern Mac porting, Civilization VI has been sitting on my laptop, unplayed, for the last 4 days.
The guard, Firaxis, continues to taunt me. Late in the night he awoke me from my restless slumber to show me the new opening credits. "Yes, Arthur, that is your favorite Character Actor / Typecast Double-Crosser, Sean Bean." I marvel at the subtlety of Christopher Tin's "Sogno di Volare". As my tears well at the sight of the astronaut blasting into space with her photograph of CGI Sean Bean taped to the dashboard, Firaxis slams the laptop shut. "What is permitted to others is not permitted to you." I scurry back into the darkness of my cell, and dream of Domination Victory... 
I hope the rest of you are enjoying One More Turn, and more fervently, I hope I am able to join you very soon.


City Living 3

Sir Terence David John "Terry" Pratchett, OBE, writing about Death's unique perspective on city life. Death obviously speaks in all caps, to denote his place on the autism spectrum:
THIS IS THE CITY, BOY, said Death. WHAT DO YOU THINK? “It’s very big,” said Mort, uncertainly. “I mean, why does everyone want to live all squeezed together like this?” Death shrugged. I LIKE IT, he said. IT’S FULL OF LIFE.
The motto written upon Terry Pratchet's coat of arms (#OBEProblems) is:
Noli Timere Messorem
 Don't fear the reaper.


Idiom Watch

  • Competence Porn - This one comes from the venerable technology site Ars Technica as a catchall for our collective admiration of every smart, innovative ass-kicker in fiction from Ulysses to Ellen Ripley. On the one hand the idiom is a good reminder that competence porn is not competency, just as pornography is not sex. On the other hand there are far worse things to fantasize about than being competent, and a generation that seeks to emulate Mark Watney over John Holmes is a generation that inspires confidence.
  • Nobody ever got fired for _____ - In the tech industry the traditional form of this idiom is "Nobody ever got fired buying IBM equipment", a recognition of the fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD)¹ created by IBM in the 1970's to enforce their monopolistic position in computer hardware. The fear of being fired for defying IBM's death grip was Very Real², as was its counterpart in the 1990's of blaspheming the Microsoft orthodoxy, and the advice was a career cautionary tale of Making It in business in that era. With the eventual decline of IBM at the hands of smaller, lither competition and the disastrous fall of many of IBM's core technology offerings, the elephant in the room was the fact that many of IBM's own employees were fired because of the decisions made by market monopolists at Big Blue who had been blinded to their internal bloat by their own FUD and by the lack of market signaling the climate of fear created. Today the idiom takes on that irony, and when spoken is (hopefully) a different cautionary tale of being overly fearful of at the prospect of losing your job when making controversial decisions that you know are right in the face of commonly accepted market dominance. Conversely, when spoken unironically the idiom serves as a handy shibboleth to inform the listener that they are speaking to a coward.
  • Choice of Protein - Had to throw in a food-related language gripe. The notion that there are more protein-rich foods out there than the usual complement of red, white, or sea-based meats is legitimate and should be captured in our fast-casual food menus (clearly Chipotle's beans and seitan are our go-tos here), but there's still something overly specific about even this generalization of food choices. Dietary fads are infantilizing in their pseudo-scientific smugness, and trifling in their desperate trendiness, with the obsession about high protein meals being no exception. Are we not adult enough, with a long enough view of history, to simply say "Choice of Ingredient"? 

  1. FUD can also be found in Eric S. Raymond's (ESR) Jargon File, between "fuck me harder" and "FUD wars", and the "idiom watch" vein of this blog, along with other topics, can clearly be seen to have drawn influence from ESR. (How's that for passive voice, MS Word 97?)
  2. So real in fact, that the AMC television show "Halt and Catch Fire" devotes their entire first season to it. 


Idiom Watch

  • Checks out - Many great idioms tend to involve an irony that measures the difference between the importance of what is being said against the ephemeral nature of the topic at hand. "Checks out" is no exception, and the joke involved in suggesting that "I researched the offhanded comment you just made thoroughly, and would like add my extremely scientific evaluation of your bon mot to the discussion in order to bolster your argument," gets at least a chuckle if not a literal laugh out loud every time.
Sadly I don't have any other idioms on the radar, I just didn't want 2015 to go by without any posts going on the record. If this blog starts to look like my resume, I'm going to have to hire an archeologist to figure out what the hell I was thinking during the twenty-teens. ("Checks out.")


Idiom Watch

  • You want what you want when you want it. - This phrase is often used to express sympathy to someone who may or may not be getting what they want at a given time, saying "Yes, it's understandably frustrating that you can't get what you want right now, because you want what you want when you want it and if you get it any later than that you will get what you want, but you will still be perfectly justified in being less satisfied than if you got it when you originally wanted it." Taken as such you can of course use the phrase sincerely or ironically, perhaps the person is in no way justified in their dissatisfaction, or should just suck it up and take what they want when they can get it, but the explicit or inverted meaning of the phrase is clear depending on the sarcasm leveled.

    The sideways meaning that prompted an Idiom Watch however is the implication hidden in a slightly different grammatical interpretation. What if you are the type of person who wants something when they want it, but often no longer wants it any time thereafter? What does this mean about you as a person? That your desires are entirely time-sensitive? Perhaps, which again could be a justifiable position in many cases (someone in need of a heart transplant could justifiably be said to want what they want when they want it). On the other hand, perhaps you are just the kind of person who has fleeting desires, and if you don't get what you want when you want it then the desire flees and you're not much worse for not having gotten something you wanted an hour ago.

    A third option is that you have not fleeting, but rather powerful and fluctuating desires. The desire doesn't run from you when the clock strikes another hour passed, but it looks different than it did an hour ago. Maybe the person offering something to you then has made you a new proposal, the alternative they proposed an hour ago looks more desirable with an hour's thought, or you were just downright wrong in wanting the thing and could only learn it with reflection. Getting what you want when you want it then can even pose a risk of not get what you ultimately want.

    A person who wants what they want when they want it then has three possible outcomes in descending order of satisfaction. If they have strong, temporal desires, they will often be dissapointed by delays. If they have fleeting desires, they can never experience lasting contentment. And if they have powerful but fluctuating desires, they will strongly favor things they wanted then at the expense of better things they could have gotten now.