Showing posts with label Society. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Society. Show all posts

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Words to annoy pedants with inconcise English


Ironic conflicting road signs
There are many ways English doesn't follow precise scientific style definitions.  Some English-speakers are annoyed by some of the inconsistencies and disorder of English words.  There are even some who take their annoyance out on others who don't see such a problem.  In this, there seems to be a movement of sorts that tries to bring some sort of hierarchical order to English words.  When people defy this attempt at order, they sometimes find themselves being attacked for their word choices.

I've talked about the phrase begs the question in a previous article.  Use of this phrase will trigger attacks by pedants.  There are specific words that elicit similar literary venom.  At the top of the list is ironical.

Ironical irony


There are many people that sincerely believe ironical is not a word, and that only ironic should be used in cases where irony is an adjective.  They will actually make fun of people that use the word ironical correctly.  I've used the term myself in an ironic sense, only to trigger people who don't understand the irony of being opposed to the use of the word ironical, and the double-irony that ironical is actually a real word, and the triple-irony that I used the word to make fun of something else (namely, being pedantic).

There was an episode on Seinfeld, where the character Seinfeld confidently declares there is no such word ironical.  I don't know if this started the hatred of the word, but it certainly popularized that hatred.

Another ironic fact about ironical is that it actually has a more concise definition than ironic.  Ironic has three distinct definitions, where ironical has two related definitions.

The word irony itself is also the subject to derision.  The definition of irony includes something being incongruous.  Yet, using irony in this manner can trigger pendants into criticising you.

Number game


Another example of people trying to bring order to disorder of the English language lies in the alternative terms for numbers.  Namely, couple, few, dozen, etc.  But, that's not good enough for some.  In some schools, kids are taught that there is a concise progression to these terms, where couple = 2, several = 3 and few = 4.

If you look up several in the dictionary, you'll find a variety of definitions that can vary between dictionaries.  Some dictionaries say that several means "more than 2 or 3", while others say it means "more than a few".  However, in all cases, several represents an "indefinitely small number".

If you look up few in the dictionary, you'll find that few doesn't actually represent any particular number at all in most definitions.  It doesn't mean "3 or 4" or just "4".  It simply means an "indefinitely small number", similar to several.

I've even heard some claim that the word some has a defined number of 2 or more, when in fact, some can refer to any number, large or small, including 1 or 1,000,000.

Orientation


Another word I've seen trigger people is orientate.  Orientate and orient both mean the same thing as verbs in most cases.  But, orient is also a noun.  Some people prefer to say orientate to identify the word as a verb since orientate has no noun meaning.  In other words, it's actually more concise to use the word orientate when talking about taking an action that will change the orientation of a thing.

Inflamed much?


Is it wrong to use the word inflammable when flammable means exactly the same thing?  Well, they both have the same definition, but for different reasons.  Root word for flammable is flame.  Flame is a noun.  However, inflame is the root word of inflammable.  Inflame is a verb.  And, inflammation is a noun with a completely different meaning than flame.  The word flammation is obsolete.  It meant to cause something to be set on fire.  What's the other word for that?  Oh, that's right, inflame.  So, technically, flammable should be the word we stop using if we were to choose between it and inflammable.  I wonder who would be inflamed by that?

What are some other words that bug someone you know?



Saturday, May 27, 2017

Relative World

Every place is exotic to some place else.
No place is exotic to itself. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Planetizing Pluto

It seems that main reason why we care so much about what is and is not a planet is due to the Astrological origins of Astronomy. The word "planet" is derived from a Greek word for "wanderer", as in a star that wanders around the sky. Earth wasn't considered a planet by this ancient definition.

Today, the term planet isn't special, and things we call planets shouldn't be special either. The current definition of the word "planet" by IAU doesn't make any sense since it pretty much invalidates all the planets of "planet" status with the 2006 addition "A planet is a celestial body that has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit."  For example, Pluto is tied to Neptune's orbit. So, technically, Neptune's orbit hasn't been cleared of other objects (the biggest being Pluto's system), so Neptune isn't a planet. IAU definition presents us with a mess. We need to stop treating the word "planet" like it's some special term. "Planet" is just a word and it should be used to describe a well defined class of objects that aren't determined by ancient superstitions.

Always emotions

One of the common statements by those who argue against the application of the term "planet" to Pluto is that those who want to categorize Pluto as a planet want this for "mostly for emotional reasons".  However, the very reason Pluto was "demoted" was for mostly emotional reasons. Here's how:

The definition of "planet" adopted in 2006 by the IAU actually invalidates all other planets from the class as well, particularly the big ones.  Also, the IAU still named Pluto a type of planet called "Dwarf Planet" while in the same breath saying that it is no longer a planet.  These oversights were due to the 2006 definition not being vetted by scientists in the field of study (which is supposedly a violation of IAU policy).  Why was this definition pushed so hard that it by-passed normal procedures?  Someone was trying to game the system.

In my opinion, the whole thing is a mess because Michael Brown (self-described "Pluto Killer") and others of similar opinions wanted to have some fun trolling the IAU.  He has reportedly stated many times how much fun he had with the reclassification of Pluto.  If anything is emotional, it was the whole effort to "demote" Pluto for a bit of fun.

A Different Perspective

What would our thoughts be if we evolved on a rocky orb that revolved around some Gas Giant?  If we looked out at this alternative solar system, we'd see all these other rocky orbs; some orbiting one of several Gas Giants and some orbiting the primary star.  Would all the Gas Giants be known by the same name that we'd called our own rocky orb?  No. We'd call the Gas Giants something else, and all the rocky orbs would be called by the same classification as our own world, regardless to them orbiting a Gas Giant or orbiting the star.  There wouldn't even be a concept of "moon".

The main reason we have trouble with this whole "moon" and "planet" classification is because of our own Earth-centric view of our solar system. The reason some people try to protect the word "planet" is rooted in ancient superstitions that people don't realize they are still perpetuating.  We need to break free of this ancient beliefs and just use science to categorize things in a neutral and fact based manner.  We need a real definition for the word "planet" which isn't implemented for unvetted and emotional reasons, but rather being based on hard facts.  We need a definition developed by a body of Planetary Scientists who base their conclusions on geophysical traits.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Significantly higher rate of foodborne illness and death in cities with plastic bag bans

In 2007, San Francisco, CA became the first county in the US (or anywhere) to ban plastic bags at grocery stores. A 2012 study titled Grocery Bag Bans and Foodborne Illness by Jonathan Klick University of Pennsylvania and Joshua d. Wright of George Mason University stated the following,

We find that the San Francisco County ban is associated with a 46 percent increase in deaths from foodborne illnesses. 

The study not only links deaths to the plastic bag ban, but also the additional costs of illness for those who get sick, but do not die.  What is the reason for more people getting sick?  The study claims it is because we are reusing our reusable shopping bags without cleaning them between uses!

The study goes on to point out that similar increases in illnesses from foodborne diseases have been seen in other communities that have since also banned plastic bags.

Ick!

I pointed out this potential problem about six years ago in my Tuesday Two/Epoch-Fail series, where I stated,

And what of reusable canvas bags? Heh. Guess what. You have to buy them. They get very unsanitary very quickly. Wanna guess how many patrons are not washing them regularly? There are reasons behind our strict food handling guidelines, and canvas bags now represent a very weak link in food safety

The Grocery Bag Bans and Foodborne Illness study isn't perfect, but it does coincide with my statements.  However, it's not just about keeping bags washed.  The study finds that we store the reusable bags in places that tend to breed bacteria, such as car trunks.

The study also points out that the overall cost of the ban doesn't come close to breaking even with the benefit seen to the environment as a result of the ban.  In other words, the cost of plastic bag bans is substantially greater than the cost benefit to the environment!

The problem is that we have local governments making rules about society without proper research in vain attempts at social engineering.  Before the plastic bag bans went into effect, these governments should've found and implemented safe alternatives.  It's been eights years since that original ban, and we still do not have safe alternatives even being proposed!  What we do have is more cities and counties pushing for expansion of the ban, despite the harm it causes us and the lack of actual benefit to the environment.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

This is America! Wait, what? [Infographic]

This is America! Wait, what? (Confusing to Europeans)

It is funny how many people are taught that "The Americas" is one continent.  Oh, and some people are bugged by the "arrogance" that Americans have for being the only people to call themselves "American" when there is a whole bunch of other countries here too.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Stupid press and their stupid ways (Facebook haters)

From time to time there are articles claiming the end of Facebook.  These articles are all pretty much the same, saying how "kids" are using other social media sites now, such as Vine, Snapchat, Ask.fm, and Instagram.  Really?

Vine is not used instead of Facebook.  Vine is used instead of Youtube.  It's a video app.

Snapchat is only being used for sending sexy videos that cannot be stored.  Again, not something that was ever really Facebook's thing.  Facebook might be losing some use to Snapchat, but I don't think it's much.  Youtube is losing more than Facebook.

Ask.fm is really competition for Reddit and Yahoo! Answers rather than Facebook.  Maybe Reddit is stealing time away from Facebook, but ultimately, even these individuals end up on Facebook for social networking (even as they pretend to hate it).  Reddit doesn't have a strong social interaction and is mostly just strangers posting for strangers.

What about Instagram?  People use Instagram instead of older services like Flickr and Photobucket.  It's a photo app.  There is a stronger social aspect, but photos aren't really a replacement for communicating on Facebook.  It's more like one-way bragging, which ultimately doesn't promote long and engaging interaction.  When people respond to someone else's brags, they are trying to make themselves relevant in the context of the braggartry, and that's what tends to happen on Facebook.  That's something that just isn't possible on Instagram.

You know what kids are using instead of Facebook?  Nothing, ...kinda.  They are using text messaging.  Texting is why Facebook is seeing a small decline in usage in the younger demographics.  Aggressive use of texting is temporary for people, though.  Textings doesn't grow as your network grows.  There's a certain point where texting becomes intrusive.  When that happens, people move their social networking to a more broad service.  When they do, that service still tends to be Facebook.

I'm not a Facebook pumper.  I can live with or without it.  I do know it is the most convenient service right now.  There is just something about it that makes it more usable than Google+.  Anyone that thinks that Facebook will go the way of Myspace and Friendster just isn't paying attention or only seeing what they want to see.  Until something that is actually better comes around, Facebook isn't going to die from a supposed mass migration of its user base.

There is merit to all the services mentioned above.  Some services appeal to certain people more than others.  Facebook's success is that it is a generalist that covers all the bases.  

Saturday, June 08, 2013

WP on MJ legalizatoin; and the prohibition

The article Five myths about legalization of marijuana has a lot of interesting points about legalization of marijuana and what is likely to really happen.
When the United States’ 40-year-long war on marijuana ends, the country is not going to turn into a Cheech and Chong movie. It is, however, going to see the transfer of as much as 50 percent of cartel profits to the taxable economy.
I don't really agree with the tone for the conclusions about the 5th myth in the article regarding the politics of the matter. The Marijuana Prohibition (and prohibition on all drugs for that matter) is neither a liberal or conservative battle.  Many individuals from both camps have reasons to support the Drug Prohibition. And, many individuals from both camps have reasons to end it.

For me, these are reasons to end prohibition:
  • personal liberty
  • disproportionate application of the laws massive federal investment into the Drug War has not decreased drug addiction nor substantially affected overall use
  • expensive drug related battles (literally) that only make our enemies stronger and us weaker by the day
  • allows focus on treatment for those are prone to addiciton rather than turning them into career criminals
  • better use of local funds to help other areas of society and infrastructure
  • tax money from the regulation of drugs, etc.
These issues cross the political spectrum.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Tipping point

Wow, there sure has been a lot of back and forth online recently about customary tipping (gratuities) in America for the service provided by waitstaff at restaurants.  A lot of it is playing out on Reddit.  There was this pastor who protested an 18% automatic tip on a split bill for a large party, citing God has her reason for protest.  That event lead to so much buzz that there's no point trying to cover any more it. 

Another Reddit posting appeared more recently of another posted receipt.  This receipt actually shows a reduction of the automatic tip from the final bill.  An interesting backlash has come out of this second posting.  Several problems arise.  First, the assumption is the automatic tips are some how compulsory.  Second, 20% automatic tip is just nuts.  I've seen 18%, and I still have to wonder why so high.  Third, how can a tip ever be considered compulsory!

I suggest reading the comments of the Reddit links.  There are a lot of good statements (some of them even sourced).  Legally speaking, tips are not compulsory.  By definition (IRS and at the state level), they must be voluntarily offered by the customer in order to qualify as a tip.  Sure, a restaurant can charge a service fee, but a service fee is not a tip, and not taxed the same. 

Overtipping is creating a monster

There's a general issue at the heart of all this: overtipping.  There has been way too much overtipping since the late 1990's.  People feel good about themselves when they overtip.  This is pure arrogance and selfaffirmation.  I know, I used to be one of those overtippers.  Why did I stop overtipping?  Sure, it helps the one individual, but it hurts the overall system.  The more overtipping occurs, the more waitstaff come to expect the higher tip rate, regardless to the level of service. Bad servers are rewarded for being bad.  The value of good servers is diminished over time.  Plus, waitstaff often don't connect the dots well enough to understand why they are getting a good tip and why they are not.  I was taught this lesson a very long time ago by a friend of mine who was a former waitress.  It took me a very long time to accept it. 

Another reason I stopped overtipping is because 15% is now considered a standard tip.  Really?  I remember when 10% was considered a great tip!  And now, some in the restaurant industry are claiming a minimum tip is 25%!?  Really?!   Waitstaff aren't the only group of people that aren't making a lot of money.  Overtipping is making it harder for average Americans to go out and enjoy dinner.   That actually hurts our overall economy.  Less people will dine out, consume less when they do dine out, or dine out a places without a waitstaff.  This means less overall money finding its way into the full service restaurant industry. 

No more overtipping

Can I afford to overtip?  Yes.  But I've stopped doing it after realizing the harm it is causing to the overall system.  Since 15% is now the normal and legally recognized tip, I consider that to be the minimum for normal/good service.  I will often push the tip up for great service.  However, that rarely exceeds 18%, and is usually 16-17%. 

And, just as important.  Do not tip on the whole bill.  Tipping is on the subtotal.  Sales tax is what we pay to the local government.  You really want to tax your sales tax?  People who pay their tip on the sales tax portion of the bill may think they are being good people, but this is just another form of overtipping.

How to handle bad service

If service was so-so, I normally just ignore it and move on.  What I have learned, that if service is particularly bad, do not take it out of the tip (or at least, don't wait to take it out of the tip).  Depending on the degree of the problem, talk to the restaurant staff about the issues you are experiencing.  For extremely minor issues, I will say, just get over it.  For simple matters that need to be addressed, talk to the waitstaff.  They should be able to take care of the matter.  I've found that waitstaff will often forward bigger issues to the Manager without you asking.  If the waitstaff isn't helpful or the problems are bigger, then ask for the Manager.  Again, depending on the degree of the service problem, you may wish to wait until after the meal.  Some waitstaffers will resent you for complaining.  If it is a problem that must be addressed before the end of the meal, then if at all possible, wait until the food arrives.

Region

Having travelled much of America now, I've found that some areas are just better than others when it comes to the quality of service.  Set your expectations accordingly.  Of course, it is still not OK to receive rude service.  However, I've found that coastal regions of California tend to have better service on the average than other areas, such as Massachusetts.  Many times, trying to get your waitstaffer's attention can be a bit of a chore at many places in Massachusetts.  Training seems to be biggest cause for issues in Massachusetts, since normally the waitstaffers are willing to serve, they just aren't always as aware on how to be attentive.

Don't punish waitstaff for kitchen and systematic problems


Now, the flipside of this is that there are many areas of the restaurant that are not under the control of the waitstaff. Judge a tip based on the service itself. For example, if a steak comes cooked incorrectly, it's a 50% chance that the waitstaffer got the order wrong. However, it is 50% chance that the kitchen got it wrong too. Give the waitstaffer the benefit of the doubt.



Sunday, December 16, 2012

Soccer Mom talks about Mental Illness in US

Here is a very touching and poignant telling of one mother's fears about her own child and how mental illness is being mishandling in America with our skewed sense of priorities.

In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness....A few weeks ago, Michael pulled a knife and threatened to kill me and then himself after I asked him to return his overdue library books. His 7 and 9 year old siblings knew the safety plan—they ran to the car and locked the doors before I even asked them to. I managed to get the knife from Michael..." con't to read whole article here.