“Do you have a moment to talk about [Software X], our Lord and Savior?”
I have this conversation a lot, whether on the social networks, forums, or (occasionally) even in person…
Me: “I’m having [specific problem] with [software I’m using].”
Other Person: “Have you tried [different software]? It’s fantastic.”
Me: “No. I’m generally happy with [software I’m using].”
Other Person: “If that were true, you wouldn’t be complaining about [specific problem]. Seriously, you should try [different software].”
Me: “No, seriously, I just want to solve [specific problem]. Continuing to suggest I switch to [different software] isn’t helping.”
Other Person: “What? There’s nothing wrong with suggesting an alternative. Don’t be such a jerk!”
Mere words alone can’t describe how irritating this conversation is.
In order to really do my feelings justice, I’d have to let loose a torrent of inhuman screaming and start throwing handfuls of feces around the room.
Instead of some kind of line-by-line tear-down of all that is bullshit with this kind of exchange, let me present a (very) slightly different conversation…
Me: “The left, front tire on my Taurus keeps losing air.”
Other Person: “Have you thought about buying a Prius?”
Me: “Uhh…no. The car’s fine.”
Other Person: “Well, if that were true, you wouldn’t be complaining about your tire. Seriously, you should go buy a Prius.”
Me: “Are you fucking with me? Why the hell would I want to get a completely new car when the only thing wrong with—”
Other Person: “Hey! There’s nothing wrong with suggesting an alternative. Don’t be such a jerk!”
See? The people who do this? They sound like blithering idiots, completely disconnected from reality.
Well, they do until they get really wound up about their favorite software.
Then they sound like Jehovah’s Witnesses and I have to turn the hose on them.
Last night, I had a nightmare (one among many) wherein I was being forced to watch a documentary about a company which made barbecue sauce. I was forced to watch it because it was controversial. It was controversial because it exposed the company’s secret procedures for making barbecue sauce and thus threatened to overturn all of patent law.
First, they slaughtered the pigs. The screaming, swollen pigs, half of which were walking upright and grinning at me through the television screen. They had human smiles and reptilian eyes. I remember someone in the documentary saying: “These are good and ripe.”
Then they simmered the pigs, making a thin, stinking stock which they then poured into these giant paint cans.
That’s when I woke up, with the sound of the screaming pigs still ringing in my ears.
How was your night?
My social networks have been filled with a lot of statements like these…
Person #1: “That was offensive!”
Person #2: “You’re a moron!”
If you, too, have the social networks you might be able to guess which international incident I’m referring to, but I’m going to avoid talking about it specifically and instead address a more general point that’s been bugging the shit out of me for a long time.
I love me some dictionaries. I own several, and I often peruse online dictionaries when I’m bored. Words, and their meanings, are fascinating to me in and of themselves, but I’m also keenly interested in how people relate to them.
Words like “offensive,” for instance.
There are a lot of people who like to point at things and call them “offensive.” Likewise, there are a lot of people who like to argue with the first group, claiming that no, those things aren’t “offensive” at all. And, of course, each group will begin bringing evidence—and not a few insults—to the table in an attempt to prove their respective cases.
Now, over the last few days, I’ve consulted about a dozen different dictionaries and each of them has provided me with a definition along these lines…
offensive (adj.) – causing someone to feel deeply hurt, upset, or angry.
They all differ by a word here or there, choosing one synonym over another, but they all land in a very similar space: something is offensive when it instills a particular feeling in someone.
Note the emphasis. We’re talking about a feeling here, not a conclusion.
If I look at something, take a measurement, make a few inferences, and offer a conclusion about that thing then sure, you can evaluate that conclusion and attempt to prove it true or false, right or wrong, whatever.
Feelings don’t work that way.
You either feel one way about something, or you feel another, and there is no proving that feeling right or wrong because emotions don’t exist in the same space as reason. You can’t logic someone into feeling a certain way, nor can you logic them into feeling differently.
So, when someone says something is “offensive,” what they really mean is: “That causes me to feel deeply hurt, upset, or angry.”
And when someone says that person is a moron or otherwise wrong for feeling that way, what they really mean is: “I don’t care.”
So, the last week or two have been…interesting.
Work progresses on The Project. Shawn and I have been working our asses off—to the best of our abilities—and things seem to be moving forward. Unfortunately everything’s still all over the floor, so it’s hard to see the big picture. We’ve got bits and pieces, notes and lists, but not enough is done yet to know how it’s going to fit together.
We’re excited, though. What we’ve got is good.
I’ve read a bunch of books lately, and most of them have been pretty good.
Leviathan’s Wake, Caliban’s War, Abaddon’s Gate, Cibola Burn – These four books are The Expanse series, or what’s been released of them so far. Very good, space-faring science fiction of the not-hard variety.
Ringworld – Yeah, I know it’s a classic, but I only just got around to it. This is hard-ish, space-faring science fiction, and while I liked many of the ideas in it, some of the execution seemed a little off to me. There was a lot of tell-don’t-show and the characters never felt particularly real. I liked the book enough to keep me reading to the end, but I didn’t love it.
Mort – This is the fourth book of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series and it’s awesome.
Since I’m a heavy GNU Emacs user—at least on my laptop—I’ve long ago swapped my CAPSLOCK and CONTROL keys. Giving up all that juicy keyboard real estate to CAPSLOCK—a key which shouldn’t exist anyway—is hideously wasteful, and having a CONTROL key right next to my left pinky makes using Emacs so much more pleasant.
Swapping these keys under GNU/Linux is relatively painless. And it’s even easier under Mac OS X—click one check-box and done.
Well, the other day I decided to make the same change to my desktop computer, which runs Windows 7. And, I shit you not, in order to swap these two keys you need to crack open your Windows Registry and hand-hack hexadecimal.
I finally got around to watching Firefly, as well as the Serenity movie. It was good. Much better than I expected.
Alas, I also tried to watch Farscape, which was terrible in pretty much every conceivable way.
How Farscape got four seasons and Firefly didn’t get all of one is beyond me.