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.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

20-Minute Topic: Malevolence

           Malevolence. I COULD leave it at that, but then I would depriving the world of the valuable experience that is reading my written word. Well, words. Plural. One word was necessary in any case. Malevolence is probably not something that needs a lot of explanation. If you aren't yourself malevolent, you likely know someone who is. Or have at least seen on in a Disney movie. I think we call them sociopaths now, or something. I don't know.

          Since everyone probably already knows what it means, I'll take things in a different direction. Work malevolence (that is, the word. I don't advocate actually BEING malevolent. Not publicly, anyway.) into your everyday conversations. It doesn't have to be correct usage. In fact, it's often better if it's not. Misattribute quotes. Get crazy. Malevolence makes the world go 'round. It's as the bard says, your malevolence warms my heart, baby. That guy's nose makes me malevolent. I have a malevolent growth on my butt. That's not incorrect usage, I just thought you should know. There are two possible results of this experiment. Well, one. Two results from one result, I guess. You're going to confuse people. That's gonna happen. That confusion will birth two different things. Actually, three. Maybe more. My credibility is going down the eau de toilette. People are either going to be apathetic toward your remarks, because they don't understand them, and write you off as being smarter than they are, be confused to the point of looking up the word when they get a moment, and realize you used the word wrong, or recognize your error right off the bat. Two of those outcomes are net wins for you. 66.66%. Not bad.

          Something occurred to me while I wrote that. I saw it as a win, because you were manipulating people and/or wasting their time. Does this mean that I myself am...malevolent? Can you be malevolent without realizing it? Is it consciousness of the malevolence which makes it thus? Truly a question for the philosophers. Thankfully, I'm as close to a philosopher as we got these days. I'll take a crack at this conundrum.

          I don't think you CAN be malevolent without realizing it. I have to believe that. It's either that or incriminate myself. However, my postulation isn't without support. That would be gross. Just sort of...suspended there. Nothing holding it up. The widely accepted Webster's definition says that malevolence is marked by a desire to do harm to another person. Seems pretty cut and dried to me. That being said, I guess I did just incriminate myself anyway. Variables are introduced when the discussion of whether there is a difference between knowing that you're hurting someone and knowing that hurting someone is wrong. I think that'll be my defense, should it come to that. Sociopathic and generally crazy. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some malevolence to achieve before bed, and it's not getting any earlier.

20-Minute Topic: Coaxial

          At least it's not a P word again...But, seriously, I'm going to have a talk with the guy giving me these words. Mathword loving Mathnerd. Coaxial. You know what? I can work with this. Aww, who am I kidding? I can work with anything. Despite SOUNDING scary, it's not, really. Then again, I'm not sure why it would be scary. It's just a word. Words aren't scary. At least, they shouldn't be. ANYHOO! In the scientific sense, it's a highly self-explanatory word, assuming you have a basic understanding of the parts that make up its whole. “Co”, meaning basically, “alongside”, and “axial” which describes an axis, a “straight” “line” in 3-dimensional space. Now, put them together, and you get one seriously unscary word.

          Now that that's over with. Screw coaxial. Seriously. The best thing they ever did was make those little red, white and yellow wires. That was it. That was the pinnacle of human invention. When I was a kid, we had a TV so old, it didn't even have one of THOSE in the back. We had to get an adapter, because coaxial cable was too high-tech. Man, scr-- you get the idea. I still have nightmares about having to adjust the cable, because it wasn't seated properly. There I would be, playing Operation Wolf, or LoLo 3 or whatever, and suddenly, no visual signal. That was really a drag, because I'd say that a fairly important aspect of that whole activity is visual. Audio would “go away” too, but it would send its surrogate, Howling Technobanshee, to keep me company.


            *shudder* While Wolf...Guy, or Lolo would meet their fate, I would have to attempt to fix the TV. Being wedged next to a wall, this was usually no easy feat. This adventure usually ended with bleeding fingers, sweaty foreheads, and numerous adolescent swear-words, being uttered. <Gosh dang crap-stacking fart-box!>. I meant it, too.
The pain has far from ended. Some of these new-fangled cable boxes for the bringing of interwebs into your home have those self-same infernal cables. I recently experienced a flashback, similar to what I imagine PTSD is like, when I was attempting to figure out what was wrong with a friend's internet. If only I had known beforehand. Like, long beforehand. I would have headed that interaction off at the pass. “Hey, you want to be my friend?” he would ask, innocently, like a wolf in sheep's clothing. “Nope”, I would reply, “You're an *******************”. Problem. Solved. Forget killing Hitler, man. THAT is what I would do first. Hitler, a close second, though. Don't even get me started about HDMI. There is top and a bottom to those little plugs. You'd think you'd have a 50/50 chance to get that sucker in there right-side-up on your first try. Nope. Up-side-down EVERY TIME. You can't do that with RCA cables. I guess colorblind people might have some trouble with them, but they don't deserve to enjoy television anyway.

          You want to impress me? Someone make a cable that is as fast as an HDMI cable is supposed to be, with a round, omnidirectional jack. Then, the world will be perfect. The end.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

20-Minute Topic: Permutation

           As quickly seems to be becoming a trend (and by “quickly” I mean “since yesterday”) today's topic is a lexiconographically abeyant word. “Permutation”. Also, it starts with “p”, too. Not sure if that was intentional or not. Unless you're a nerd, geek, dork, or any of the assorted monikers granted to society's perceived smart people by you remaining knuckle-draggers, this gem likely slipped through the cracks in your consciousness. How's that for dichotomous thinking? And, no. Glasses do not necessarily make you look smart. They even make some people look dumb.

          Change, depending on your upbringing, personal credo, frame of mind and/or state of inebriation, can be a scary thing. Change is always happening. You changed when you started reading this. You probably didn't finish because you changed which page you were reading. It's fair to assume that by this point, I could talk about anything I want, and no one would know...Kind of liberating, really. This kind of change is, however, not the kind one conveys through language when one uses the word “permutation.” Permutation isn't the slow, gradual change from interest to boredom from reading words you don't understand. It isn't something that can easily be missed. Permutation is a fundamental change. One which carries the subject of change from one state to another in as long as the state of flux lasts. There is no transitional period. In that regard, it probably is a lot like changing the web-page from someone on his high-horse, lecturing you about proper diction, to an animated .gif of a panda bear sneezing on a kitten. See how I tied that all together? Synergism, baby.
          The really, super, ultra nerds out there (if there are any left by now) are probably stammering about the mathematical definition of the subject. I don't care about it, and I don't care about you. Math and I have an understanding. It doesn't come within 200 yards of my person or domicile, and I don't go on a murderous rampage using sharpened metal multiplication signs. Division signs are surprisingly difficult to hone. And don't even get me started on square-root.
          There is one more facet of the word which, I feel, simply MUST be discussed. That's right! You guessed it! Err...hello? Anyone? The result of the change must, essentially, reuse the parts which comprised the original state. A piece of software may go through numerous permutations while you slowly dissolve in a miasma of obsolescence. I'm looking at you M$. Eggs permutate into chicks. (I can't believe Word doesn't know that “permutate” is a real word. Whoever designed spell-check should permutate into a different job! ZING!) If you decided upon reading my opening statement that you would rather do something more productive with your life, like design sweat-pants or hunt corporate executives for sport, that can't be considered permutation. Ooh! Even MORE synergism! The two things are, in my mind, and hopefully yours as well, very different, nay, unrelated things. I'm also about 90% sure that it's from Latin, so that's cool. Permutate away, gentle readers! It almost certainly won't result in your gruesome death!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

20-minute topic: Pensiveness

           Observing pensiveness is, I imagine, a lot like looking for something you've never seen. The Loch-Ness monster, bigfoot, size 80 lederhosen, the Loch-Ness monster's lederhosen. For me, the list stops there. Seeing as how I haven't found anything I haven't seen, I'm not really capable of drawing from personal experience. Qualifications aside, I can point to a term called the “known unknown.” It means something we know that we don't know. Pensiveness exists; we have a word for it. A real word, not some made-up, Carrolian word of which I am, admittedly, fond. It is etymologically old, and probably French or something. Anyway, we know it exists, but we lack proof. You can't see it. You yourself have (maybe) been pensive before, but the moment you look in a mirror, the pensiveness is gone. You can see it on other people's faces, theoretically, but identifying it is like locating something small in something large. Or something smaller in something small. Was that pensiveness that smothered his face, and swallowed his expression? Was it constipation? Was it the sun in his eyes? Was it even a real face? What IS a face anyway? *Ahem*

         I was going to rail against modern society, and the lack of emphasis placed on thought. That plan disintegrated the moment I began to pensate on it. I spent no less than 12 minutes this morning being pensive about various...varieties of breakfast cereal. I feel like that's not even abnormal for my average day, but specific examples elude me. Suffice it to say, I think subject is irrelevant. Depth is important, and eyebrows probably play a part. Also, depth of eyebrows are probably metaphysically related, Mr. Cromagnon. Sorry, eyebrow.

          I guess what I'm trying to say is that pensiveness exists as long was we believe it does. It is very much like faeries in that respect. I mean, I guess that's what I'm saying. I'm not afraid of admitting it. Faeries are something I'm often pensive about. Anyway, proving its existence is impossible, but dismissing it as nonexistent is akin to admitting that you spend your life flitting from one topic to another without giving any of them consideration. *CouFACEBOOKgh*. Oops. No scathing social analysis. My bad. Really, that's more like Twitter anyway. Then again, I have seen expressions which I have interpreted as pensive on a fellow homosapien's face while was, indeed refreshing his Facebook profile for the 8th time in as many seconds. Deep in thought. While I'm spitballing here, I may as well point out that he may not have been paying any attention at all to his profile, and perhaps was, in fact, contemplating his fingers, or choice of long-sleeved clothing. Who knows? Who knows, indeed. Think about it.
          It occurs to me that the definition, while implied, is not explicit, and perhaps, not obvious. To be pensive is to be deeply engaged in serious thought. Which, I suppose, introduces another variable. What serious thought constitutes for one person is probably brushed past by another. Breakfast cereal, for example. How often do you let your mental processes linger on its many facets? Gleaming gems are there to be discovered, if you only take the time to brush off the dirt. Or, in this case, sugar-coating. Granted, I'm hard pressed to actually identify any of said gems at the moment, but something must have captivated me and my attention for all that time. I'm getting off-topic again; I guess that means I'm done. Exit question and challenge: What makes you pensive? If the answer is nothing, try to think more, dummy.