Abandoned Ideas

Looks like the neighbors are getting a new roof.”

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.

77 thoughts on “Abandoned Ideas

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    1. Uh oh – no offense intended, Mike. Some of these are easy to slip into normal conversation. Fortunately, the Mrs. warns me with: “are you sure this is the word you wanted to use?


      1. We are all guilty of using inaccurate words that aren’t quite right, Dan, so there was definitely no offense taken. It seems, though, that we have different trigger words that set us off when someone misuses them. For me, for example, the incorrect use of the word “literally” has that effect.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Hi Math Man. Uh, you did do a bit of calculating down there. I had to brush away a few cobwebs to stay on it. Lol. There are many phrases I feel are misused, abused and overused, especially by folks in the media industry, that they clearly don’t really know the meaning of or the history behind. But if they manage to actually say exponentially and not ‘expotentially’ I am grateful.
    That is a beautiful shot of Maddie. I love aall your macro shots and the red spots do look like little hearts! I hope your week is terrific Dan.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Cheryl. I’m hoping that talking about how I was going to talk about math, but didn’t will get me off the hook. Let’s face it, I can’t resist. When I made the notes about orders of magnitude, it was a person talking on the news about a hurricane increasing from one category to another. Significant, but let’s hope it’s never a factor of 10.

      I’m glad you like the macros and the lazy Setter.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. She does look relaxed! Funny, when I mentioned the media I was thinking to add a comment stating my low expctations from reporters who describe a hurricane event as though they have never even heard of one before. 🙄

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Ha ha – I think severe weather brings out the worst in reporting. This, as we gear up for another season of “professionals” latching onto a railing and showing us how hard the wind is blowing.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I have never heard of that other use if the word “Calculus”. It is surely an abuse of the word. Just last Thursday I took time to remind myself how to integrate by parts. I had forgotten.
    I agree with you on the word “stupid”. Every time I use that word I become painfully aware of it. I start thinking about how it is impossible to know everything, how much time and effort has to be invested in understanding a concept, how you can think you understand something and later on you discover that you don’t, or that you were misinformed, etc. I minimise its use.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Peter. Calculus can also be used to describe dental plaque (my dentist uses it). I guess, for those of us who suffered through the classes, there’s only ever going to be one meaning, You also make a good point about not using ‘stupid’.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The Pastor gave an overview of his sermon yesterday that he equated to an algebra equation. I’m thinking in my head, “Noooooo!!!!” Then I laughed (silently) and thought of you, so it’s totally appropriate and scary that your Monday post contains math-y stuff in it. Please skip any future calculus posts, but feel free to exponentially rant on the magnitude of healthcare costs, NFL ticket prices, etc.

    Happy Monday!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I knew if I included the NFL tickets, I might soften your heart a little toward this post. Thanks Mary.

      A pastor bringing math to the pulpit? That takes some nerve. Then again, it’s not like people are going to get up and leave…you stayed…right? I appreciate the thought, and I’m sure there’s a world of people who are glad someone like me didn’t go into preaching.


        1. It’s good there wasn’t a quiz.

          I am worried that if Pittsburgh “wins” the Amazon second headquarter deal, I’ll never be able to afford tickets to a Steelers game :(


          1. The last regular season game I attended at Lambeau was when Favre was QB. I was up in row 52, toward one of the end zones and paid $75 for the ticket. Which means tickets here are already out of my reach. Good luck with the Amazon deal. I hope they lose.

            Liked by 1 person

  4. I love it when you go all mathy on us 🙂

    I have never heard (or read) anyone using the expression “…changes the calculus of…”. It just sounds, well, odd. As for the other expressions, ‘changes exponentially’ is one of my favourites, intended as hyperbole. On the other hand, I’m told my sense of humour is rather dry and even my own husband doesn’t ‘get’ it.

    I enjoy these posts when you give those miscellaneous topics some time in the sun. They are deserving!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Joanne – I think the use of “changes the calculus” was a “be like Mike” moment in the media. A bunch of people saying to themselves “ooh, that sounded smart…” It seems to have waned, which is a good thing in my book. I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve been bitten by “intended as hyperbole” with an audience who didn’t understand the basis for my attempt.


  5. You’re way more deep than I am because you actually write those thoughts down for future posts. I think about them and then forget. And, I guarantee you’ll never read a post from me that includes algebra or calculus. I like math – the kind that includes numbers that you add, subtract, multiply, and divide, but no letters please. :-) Could you give me Sammy’s cell phone number? I’d really like it if he would explain to his extended family that are living in my yard and eating my plants that they’d be much happier if they took a road trip south to your yard and its endless supply of peanuts. :-) Happy Monday, Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Judy. I’m not looking to expand the network of squirrels in the neighborhood. I actually feel like reminding Sammy that his children are supposed to pack up and move. In fairness to you, I won’t leave a map of New Hampshire out on the steps. I hea New York is a nice place to live.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I studied Calculus at school when I was 15. That activity is now delayed almost to University, if then. I then had to do some more Calculus in my first year at the Open University – 13 years after leaving school, and then 5 years later it came up again as part of a Maths (Not Math note – I am English) year, again at the OU. Consequently, I feel I have done my part with the subject so using the name for other activities winds me up!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Nice images. I love Maddie just sitting there watching the world go by. Are you a diary person? I mean when you have ideas you write it down or keep it in your mind and work on it whenever you are ready. I am certainly not a diary person. I keep things in my mind, even abandoned ideas and then work on it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I either enter them into Trello or I email them to a malbox I have set up in Trello. Once there, I can work on them, add thoughts, add research, etc. and move them into the (very few) categories designating the stage they are in. When I can’t work with an idea, I move it to the bottom of the list. When the stuff at the bottom outlives its usefulness, I delete them, realizing that it wasn’t a good idea or I’m just not interested in writing about it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s good. When I have an idea or concept in my mind I keep repeating it inside. This way it stays with me while I act on it or research about it. I keep soaking all the research information and content and then try to streamline it. I work on the idea, show it to Sarah, and let her give me honest feedback. I rework on it if there are things I missed. Most of all the thinking usually happens when I am either in the toilet or when I’m just doing nothing at late night hours. Strangely, in most cases, whenever I write my ideas I never work on it.


  8. Dan–this was great for a Monday. “Exponential growth”–hey, people at work! Let’s see how many times we can use this phrase today, shall we? Stupid–I never let me kids say that word. It’s awful, isn’t it? But….sometimes you just gotta shake your head at what you can’t fix. Fav photo: the sun shining on Sammy’s little face. Yes, that was a peanut you heard…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Lois. I’m sure it won’t take long for someone to misuse that expression. We tried to not use / let our daughter use the word stupid. Sometimes, it is appropriate, but we try to find better ways to express the thought.

      I swear, Sammy can hear peanuts and he can hear us getting close to the door – he’s always there, looking at us, if we move the curtain.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Yes, I’m wondering how Trump’s words could be affecting the NFL owners calculus (a : a concretion usually of mineral salts around organic material found especially in hollow organs or ducts b : 1tartar. :-) I also like the NPR interview quote. Those types of things always make me laugh, being someone who loves words. I’m so glad you didn’t talk about math at all on Monday, Dan. What wonderful restraint!

    Happy Monday from soggy Naperville!


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Janet. I guess the NFL owners need to floss better and more often. The NPR quote literally (I’m using that correctly) had me shaking my head and wondering if the guy was trying to make a joke. It didn’t sound like he was.

      Sorry for the sog – we are pretty dry here.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I can see why the misuse of actual math terms could sound like fingernails on a blackboard (does anyone under 30 understand that saying?) to anyone versed in their true meanings. My husband bristles at misused engineering terms, and I have a similar reaction to misused art and design terms. I think people use these phrases to make themselves sound more intelligent… why use four or five words when ten or fifteen will do?

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi Dan – I could add to the list of misused words … ‘raft’ … it hit my ‘radar’ when I came back from South Africa to England … and someone wrote me a long letter about my affairs and up came the word ‘raft’ – what was Thor Heyerdahl doing impacting into my life?! Fun post … I enjoyed it – even if I misunderstood rather a lot!!! Cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope you do, Teagan, but I’ll have to convince the next generation to start reading your stuff. It’s funny how something can seem lie a great idea late one night and then look so bad in the morning.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. That’s a lot of abandoned ideas Dan. But there’s something to be said about spring cleaning. I’d rather have a root canal, without novacane, than read about math!!

    Love the shots of our girl Maddie. She looks very pleased with herself. And MiMi with her foot hanging out….too funny. Hard to tell, but is that MuMu under her?

    The squirrels are a show by themselves. The photo with the caption, “Hi there. I thought I heard a peanut”, check out the lower right side. Tell me that doesn’t look like a snake slithering up that tree! Lol. I wanted to yell, “Run Sammy, run!!”

    But then I thought, if he can hear a peanut, he can certainly hear a snake!
    🔹 Ginger 🔹

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Ginger. When I first saw that photo I did think of a snake. I wouldn’t even have kept the picture.

      MiMi and MuMu never share a space.

      Maddie is pleased with herself for talking me into sitting 🙂


  13. Hi there and tree of hearts work for me :)
    I liked, “a whole different generation.” LOL
    I say stupid as an insult to things, not people. Stupid time change. Stupid math.
    I had to do math today, too. No calculus, thank tacos, just basic addition of the long sort. Got the right numbers, too. Mentor checks my math. She sees columns and asks, “Oh no, what happened?” I tell her I write them out, but I don’t do them by hand. Last time I did one by hand, I subtracted wrong and the entire office laughed about it. To be fair, she told them before my interview, “She can’t math.”
    Anyway, she maths in her head. All those columns, in her head. *sigh* Her calculation skills are exponentially better than mine. I feel safe saying that. Truly.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I accept your assessment of your ability to math, and therefore, your use of that word. I’m glad you like the tree of hearts, and the NPR comment. I do use stupid for things – stupid network – stupid traffic. I math in my head, but I sometimes get funny looks.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Nothing more fun than bashing word usage. I’m familiar with all of your irritating examples except the one about calculus. I’ve not heard that word used in an other context than as an academic requirement, dreaded and whined about. As it should be!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Reading this on Thursday night…the math isn’t any better in my head.

    I loved that image of the morning/sunrise with the clouds all scattered like.

    I thought the two squirrels by the tree tails were roots to the tree at first glance!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess I should give up on math. Even when I abandon math by the side of the road, it’s too much math 🙂

      Walking Maddie early often let’s me get some very pretty sky pictures. As for the squirrels, I saw them run there but I have the same reaction.

      Liked by 2 people

  16. Talk about abandoned ideas! You really sharpened your Monday pencil. Math… help is the word that comes to mind. I still write down my ideas on paper and revisit every once in a while so they’re not forgotten. Eventually most become a part of writing. Great post, Dan!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Do you teach your students any math, Jennie? It’s never too early :-)

      I used to use paper, but I live in a world of computers and devices, and I spend a lot of time making it easier for people to collaborate electronically. electronic cloud-based note-taking was a natural outgrowth.

      Liked by 1 person

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