One problem with keeping track of ideas is that the ones that never come to fruition hang around to remind me that they were bad ideas. They weren’t all bad ideas, some were just victims of bad timing. Others were mistakes I made while having the idea and others are ideas that used to live on the fringe of society’s interest and have since morphed into topics for which the Editor would ask: “are you sure you want to go there?”
Well, if I ever did decide to go there, it would be on a Monday. Or, a Saturday, if I could drag my “buddy” and Cheryl along. As I purge these ideas from my “write about this someday” list, I thought I’d at least let them see the light of day – smell some fresh air – poke their heads above water – oh well, I think you get it. Here we go:
Calculus – I know, “Dan! Do NOT do math on a Monday!” I had always planned this as a topic for a Monday, so it’s appropriate to eliminate this idea today. You see, I don’t like the phrase “…changes the calculus of…” At first, I thought it was a mistake, because it was used to describe a simple topic, not a complex exercise. Then I realized that “calculus” can also refer to a way of thinking about something, although almost nobody ever uses it that way. I think whoever first used the word this way, did so to sound smart then, people who thought that person sounded smart, started using it for the same reason. Then, the Washington Post got into the act when they said: “There can be little doubt that Trump’s words are affecting the calculus of NFL owners” and the whole let’s not go there thing came into play.
Radar – This was to be part of a post on historically inaccurate uses of words, after the History Channel included the statement: “Hitler knew that if he could keep this activity under the radar…” when they were talking about building planes and tanks in the 1930s – before radar (as we know it) was invented. I thought I could make my case in one post and then reprise it at the bar the following Saturday. My pedantic buddy would point out that there were German patents for radar-like inventions granted as far back as 1904. I would argue that the term ‘radar’ wasn’t in popular use, but it got too messy. On top of that, Hitler, never being a great topic to build a post around, became even a worse topic after the events in Charlottesville.
Stupid – To be honest, I’ve never liked the word, so, as much as I wanted to write about the occasion of a friend assuaging my frustration by pointing out that “you can’t fix stupid,” I decided to not go there. That statement, however funny it might be in the moment, is one that I have tried to avoid using. On the other hand, some of the examples I was going to include in that post were funny. One that I think I can safely share comes from an interview on NPR in which a man, talking about his family, said: “…my father and grandfather, it’s like they were from a whole different generation.” Well, yeah…perhaps two.
Two Maths – When I was going to talk about abusing the word ‘calculus,’ I was going to include two additional math-based pet peeves (get it, additional?). These would be: “Exponential growth” and “Orders of magnitude” – both of which are frequently used to describe ordinary or somewhat extraordinary growth. Here are two things that have been described as such, but probably haven’t grown at either of these rates:
Baseball attendance – Unless your team really stunk up the dugout five years ago, it’s highly unlikely that they experienced exponential growth in attendance. An unthinkably low average of 5,000 fans per game would have to rise to an impossible 25 million fans to touch the first pure exponent (2) as in 5,0002. Now, in fairness, a proper mathematical expression could be made for expressing growth in attendance where some factor could be growing exponentially, but I’m pretty sure no one has figured this out for baseball. It’s equally unlikely that attendance has grown by orders of magnitude, which are usually factors of 10 in either direction – although, since 1/10 would be an order of magnitude decrease, the Mets do come to mind.
Airfares – They might be increasing or decreasing according to a formula, but it’s more properly described as algebraically, not exponentially. Legroom, on the other hand might be decreasing by orders of magnitude.
Healthcare, prescriptions, tuition and NFL ticket prices all seem to be approaching growth levels that might start to justify using these words, but those are all subjects for another day.
I hope your Monday is orders of magnitude better than your expectations.