Saturday, May 3, 2014

20-Minute Topic: Machination

           There is, apparently, no such thing as a happy word. Though, I guess that depends on the user AND the recipient of the acts detailed by the words we've done so far. Anyway, in keeping with relatively short-standing tradition, today's word is machination. It's also another one of those words that will perplex the average listener when used en communicacion, if you will. While, to be sure, similarities exist with pseudo-synonymous words, machination stands alone. Actually, most words do that when you think about it. English is screwed up, but I don't think we have any pairs of words that are both spelled identically, and possess the same meaning. My lexicon isn't limitless, though, so I could be wrong. At any rate, that would be savagely unnecessary. I mean, how would you KNOW?

          That kind of system would leave interpretation, and correction up to the whims of anyone who wanted to enforce it. And those who would want to enforce it are not the sort of people you would want enforcing it. The machinations of their mind, an anathema to civilized discourse. Actually, I think I'm going to start doing that anyway. That was a pretty good segue, yes? No, actually, those people aren't worthy of the word. They befoul the proud face it presents. Stinking, no good grammar Nazis. Go home. Wait. You probably ARE home...Go...to jail! Yeah! Turn yourselves in. *Ahem* Sorry about that. Anyway, I'll explain below:

           Not just any plot, intrigue, conspiracy, or skullduggery can be a machination, though. In case you were wondering before, those words, mixed together, make up the majority of the word in question's definition. The plans of the aforementioned horrid human beings (also a pretty good band name) would barely constitute a ploy. MAYBE, on a REALLY good day, they might graduate to stratagem. Nay, machination is reserved for describing the primary activity of the average Bond villain. They do it all the time. They're always machinatin', machinatin'. The difference? You may be asking, the difference is all in the execution. It takes years of practice, believe me, I should know.

          Any rube can plot. Any toady can engage in skullduggery. A machination requires sophistication. It must be sufficiently grandiose. It must be executed with the, how you say, panache. A good, hearty, disconcerting laugh is always a plus, too. To foil a plot only requires knowledge of it. A conspiracy can be unmasked as easily as making a strategic phone call. A full-blown machination, however, can only be undone via Deus Ex Machina. I guess certain Batman villains have claim to the activity as well. Although...Hmm...Does Batman count as a Deus Ex Machina within his own comic books? Eh, I think Batman counts as whatever he wants to. I'll let it slide.

          Dude...Best villain name EVER. The Machinator. He'd always be dressed in 15th century Italian garb, have a goatee, and be constantly soliloquizing on the best way to rule (the world). Yeah, there's no WAY that guy doesn't take over the world. He wins. That's it. Game over, man, game over. Good luck forestalling THAT, uncommonly handsome, rich hero with limitless technical savvy. You are out of your league...

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

20-Minute Topic: Mercurial

          Effervescent. Erratic. Fluctuating. Fickle. Volatile. Unstable. Flaky. What do all of these words (and more!) have in common? If you said “they are all made up entirely of letters”, you, sir, are correct. If you beat the odds and said “they are all synonyms for the word 'mercurial'”, you cheated somehow. I'm mercurial all the time. I'm not mercurial about being mercurial. Actually, I'm not mercurial. That was a lie just now. I am immutable. I am a rock, I am an island. One thing that HAS changed is that I no longer think that 'mercurial' means 'of or related to mercenaries'. Though, really, I can still see how I arrived at that conclusion. Ooh. Just thought of another good one. “Capricious”. Drop THAT one in casual conversation, and I guarantee at least two or three people won't know what you're talking about.

          I think I remember reading about this word at one point. Probably shortly after having been laughed at for using it incorrectly. It, if my mercurial memory can be trusted, comes not from shady individuals (or groups of individuals) willing to do shady things for shady money, but rather from the word “mercury”. Which, back in the Oldentimes, meant something that was subject to unpredictable change. Like, if you were to eat some, it would change you from being a “normal” “healthy” human being into someone with impaired peripheral vision, and, I imagine, a tummy ache. Or like how the planet mercury changes color when you've eaten too many mushrooms. Or like, you'd change from a “normal” “healthy” human being into a super-massive object if you ate the planet mercury. Also, I think mercury is really hot. Like, smokin' hot. Mom says mercury can give you something called “pink disease”. Just thought I'd throw that out there. Not hot. Not hot at all. If you've got something called “Pink Disease”, I'ma want you on a different continent. Maybe planet. Maybe just pack up and move to Mercury.

             Have you SEEN mercury? I mean the element, this time. I think we know why that one bad dude in Terminator 2 was so dangerous. If you know what I'm talking about, you know what I'm talking about. Mercury is bad news, and so was Homeslice. The appearance...the tendency to make dead things that were alive...too much of a coincidence. No coincidence, I say. They are one and the same. He was mercurial to boot! One minute he looked like that guy from X-Files, and the next? Someone's. Mom. That is terrifying. I hear robots aren't mercurial, cognitively. You should go ask your mom if she's really a shape-shifting-liquid-metal-terminator-robot-from-the-future-in-disguise. If my theory is correct, she'll have to tell you the truth.

           Shudder...I need something take my mind off the scary. Let's see how many more synonyms I can think of. Changeable. Inconsistent. Mutable. Uncertain. Unpredictable. Haphazard. Slapdash. Uncertain again. Variable. Protean. Fluid. AAAAAHHH!!! NOT FLUID! Okay, okay I think that's it. Yep. No more are coming to me. We're done here.

20-Minute Topic: Calipers

           Fun fact: calipers didn't exist until March of 2006. After that, they disappeared, and no amount of searching will turn any up. Don't believe anything telling you different. If you happen to have a pair of “calipers”, WATCH OUT! They are probably a protractor or some other grammar schoolish tool in disguise. Did you know that fully 40% of everything is something else in disguise? Think about THAT. The next time you see something, there's a good chance that it isn't what it appears. Anyway, public service announcement out of the way, back to calipers. I understand that they were very useful. Though, I don't know what for. History books a bit contradictory on that topic, seeing as how they shouldn't even be IN history books.

          Wikipedia, however, never lies. It claims that a pair of calipers were used measure the distance between one side of an object and another. I take back what I said about them being useful. If you can't look at something, and see how big it is, there's something wrong with you. Unless, maybe, they had calipers with braille for blind people. Coincidentally, Braille for Blind People is the name of my one-man polka duo. It's a work in progress, but I've been told the name is in poor taste. Something about blind people having ultra-sensitive hearing.
 
          I'll go ahead and make an allowance for modern varieties of calipers. They are probably what they look like. Digital readouts, and 0-error and all that. Also, what's up with that? We have more varieties of these stupid things than we have kinds of modern men's underwear. Seriously, Google 'caliper', and you will be overwhelmed by options. Like underpants, they come in all shapes and sizes. There are probably a pair of calipers specifically designed to measure men's underwear. Not just one, one for each variety. It's ridiculous. I ask you: What is more important? Knowing how big something is; something that you can see, and, indeed, TOUCH, or having properly fitting underwear? What if there was some breakthrough in underwear technology that we haven't discovered, because we were too busy measuring less important things? Talk about poor prioritization...

          Sort of talked myself into a corner here, didn't I? NOPE! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Brake calipers, suckas! Totally had another angle to play out there, and you didn't even see it coming. Granted, I don't actually have the slightest clue what these things DO, but I know they exist, and I'm glad my car has them. I think. I mean, I've never heard of someone cursing the presence of brake calipers. You also never hear about anyone bragging about their brake calipers. I guess it's probably possible to have too many of them...buried under a mountain of brake calipers. That would probably make ME curse them. Fewer, indeed, would be better. My guess, though, is that I would have more trouble making my car comply with my demands if they weren't present. I don't have any proof, but someone probably does. Someone with a mullet and overalls, undoubtedly.