Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thanksgiving fallout

Well, Thanksgiving was lovely.  We had plenty of deviled eggs and cornbread stuffing with cranberry sausage and we sat around and told each other what we were thankful for.  The 2-year-old happily proclaimed she was thankful for “DINNER!!”  The rest of the holiday weekend has been predictably lazy.

While I haven’t done the writing necessary for a full blog post, I have managed to eke out a few bits and bobs.  I replied to a comment on one of my old Perl blogs, and, if the Time Gods are willing, I’ll yet have a chance to post on my Heroscape forum about the marthon game my kids and I just finished up yesterday.

If you are visiting my page from the US, I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving.  If you’re from a different country, I hope you had a lovely ... Thursday.  And Friday.  And whatnot.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Taking a week off

This week I have a sick child, a new puppy, and a lot of work to catch up on.  So I’m taking a week off of blog posting.  This is different from when I normally post an excuse about how I ran out of time, in that I pretty much knew from the get-go that I wasn’t going to be able to make a post this week.  Of course, either way you get nothing to read, so I suppose that’s not particularly different from your perspective.  But I feel better about it.

This is the part in a post like this where I tell you to tune in next week and I’ll have an actual post for you.  Of course, next week is Thanksgiving.  So it occurs to me I’d better not make any promises I can’t keep.  In my mind, I think that I’ll have two extra days off, so surely that means I’ll have even more time than usual to compose a post ... right?  Unfortunately, what happens in my mind and what happens in reality rarely coincide.  So we’ll just have to see how it falls out.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Perl blog post #36

Today I returned to Perl blogging with some actual code this time.  Even less useful for those of you not technically inclined.  But fun for those of you who are.  I hope.

Check it out.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

An excuse and a pondering ...

As I mentioned two weeks ago, this is my birthday weekend.  You were lucky to get a real post last week, if you think about it.  It was Halloween-on-a-Friday, a moderately rare occurrence, and we did lots of Halloween activities and collected boatloads of candy (although less than I’d expected).  But I still found time to write my roughly 1,500 words for your perusing pleasure.  What an awesome fellow I am.

And now this awesome fellow is another year older (yawn) and he am celebrating by ordering his family around and totally letting the power go to his head.  Also eating terribly.  Also also I forced my children to help build a rather large Heroscape map.  And watch silly movies with me.  And there’s more to come today.

So I’m much too busy to spew forth a chiliad and a half of lexemes for your oblectation.*  But next week you may score, so tune back in and try again.  After all, birthdays are fleeting, as are all measurements of our span on this earth.  So let me wallow in my sorrow over the inevitable passage of time for just a bit longer; I’ll get back on track next week.

* Look ’em up.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Between the Lightning Bug and the Lightning

There is a German word that I’m quite fond of: Weltanschauung.  It means, roughly, “worldview,” although it’s both a little more specific and a little more general than that.  More specific in that, technically speaking, it is a term used in German philosophy with a very particular meaning.  But also more general in that we’ve somehow watered down the meaning of the word in English.  That is, “worldview” is a calque of Weltanschauung, so it really ought to mean the same thing.  But, after we borrowed the phrase, we started interpreting it literally (in English, that is), so that nowadays “worldview” often means (or is taken to mean) the way a person views the world.  But that’s actually too specific for what Weltanschauung means (or can mean, when used outside of its technical philosophical sense).  Weltanschauung, according to Wikipedia, “refers to the framework of ideas and beliefs forming a global description through which an individual, group or culture watches and interprets the world and interacts with it.”  That is, not just how you (one person) views the world (the physical planet you live on).  But how any person, or even an organization, or a nation, sees and interprets not only their physical surroundings, but also the social and emotional context in which they are living.

This is related to what I learned of as “the fishbowl effect.”  Nowadays, Google will tell you that the fishbowl effect is a feeling of constant scrutiny, experienced mainly by astronauts and reality TV stars.  Which does make a certain amount of sense, particularly if all you know about keeping tropical fish is those little bowls with goldfish in them that you win at the county fair.1  Slightly less sense if you understand that keeping fish in a small enclosed area with no cover terrifies them so badly that it cuts their life expectancy by an order of magnitude.  But, anyway, my point is this: when I learned about “the fishbowl effect,” it meant something else entirely.  It was the idea that the fish in the fishbowl has no concept of what a “fishbowl” is.  To him, it’s just the world.  You need to be outside the fishbowl in order to comprehend that it is a bowl at all.  For me, “Weltanschauung” encompasses all the connotations of that: that your worldview not only frames your entire outlook, but also limits it in certain ways.

Similar to how it’s difficult for people to understand a concept that their native tongue lacks a word for.  Like how English doesn’t really have a word for “Weltanschauung.”

German has a few words that we don’t have in English, so we just stole them.  “Weltanschauung” is my favorite, but ”Zeitgeist” is also good, as is ”Schadenfreude.”2  These are great words, and remarkably useful.

The other day I came across an online article outlining ten more German words that there really ought to be English equivalents for.  Sort of like the German version of sniglets.  I find very many sniglets to be remarkably useful: I have a friend who’s afflicted with bovilexia, and how can you tell the story of the guy who invented bumperglints getting 10¢ for each one and therefore becoming a millionaire without the word “bumperglint”?3  And the number of times I’ve committed the act of carperpetuation at this point in my life is pretty ridiculous.  So I’m perfectly fine with coming up with new words to paper over cracks in our vocabulary.4  So much the better if they happen to already be real words, just in a different language ... right?

So this list of ten German words was pretty entertaining, in my view at least.  None of the ten are are as great as the big three I mentioned up at the top of this post, of course, but there were some keepers there: who hasn’t wanted a word to express the excess weight you’ve put on from emotional overeating (“Kummerspeck”), or, possibly even more useful, a word to describe the feeling of depression you get when you contemplate the world as it is compared to the world as it might be (“Weltschmerz”)?  Two of the words in particular stand out as pretty damned useful.

The first is “Fremdschämen,” which is defined herein as “the almost-horror you feel when you notice that somebody is oblivious to how embarrassing they truly are.”  This words rings a rather large bell with me.  For years now I’ve been experiencing this exact feeling without knowing what to call it.  Because of Fremdschämen, I can’t watch reality TV, or shows like Springer.  And there are entire avenues of comedy that are closed off to me: I can’t listen to the Jerky Boys or their ilk, I didn’t make it through even a single episode of The Office, I regularly have to fast-forward through Stephen Colbert’s “Better Know a District” series ... hell, I couldn’t even properly enjoy a recent rewatching of Fawlty Towers on Netflix because of constantly feeling embarrassed for Basil.  Also, fully half the comic ouevre of Ben Stiller.  Have you ever noticed that Ben Stiller comedies fall into two groups?  On the one hand, he does some great movies where he plays a wacky character, like Zoolander, or Tropic Thunder, or Mystery Men.  Then there’s the other half of his movies—such as There’s Something about Mary, Meet the Parents, and Along Came Polly—where the entire movie is about him doing stupid, embarrassing things, and we’re supposed to laugh at his misfortune.  I’m sorry, but I just can’t find amusement in the pain of others.5  So sue me.

The other great word here is “Torschlusspanik,” which the article defines as “the fear, usually as one gets older, that time is running out and important opportunities are slipping away.”  I live in an almost-constant state of Torschlusspanik.  There are many reasons for this.  Probably the biggest one is something I’ve alluded to before: as you get older, your ability to judge the passage time slows down, resulting in time appearing to go faster.6  And I’m pretty much right at that point in life where most men my age have already snapped and gone out and bought a motorcycle or a Porsche, or quit their job to pursue their lifelong dream of being a rock-n-roll drummer or performance artist.

But there are other reasons as well.  I’ve never been a very organized person.  My mother’s side of the family is populated with people who overplan everything, and I find it annoying.  Going on vacation with my grandparents on that side of the family was a nightmare of schedules, itineraries, and lists.  Aren’t vacations supposed to be relaxing?  How are you supposed to relax with all that rushing around trying to make your schedule?  So I never subscribed to all that organizational crap.  Which wasn’t a huge burden when I was younger, although I find that the older I get the more I regret never having put much stock in it.  I’ve tried various techniques for keeping track of my todo list(s), but so far I’m pretty terrible at it.  Which only exacerbates my feelings of Torschlusspanik.

There are lots of things I want to do.  Of course I have a family, including 3 lovely children, and I want to spend time with them.  I want to do my writing: not only my ongoing novel, but this blog of course, and my Other Blog.  I have a few CPAN modules that I’m responsible for, and other programming projects that I want to work on.  Then there’s my hobby, and my other hobby.  And my job takes up some time, which of course I don’t mind at all because I love my job, and there are holidays and birthdays and things to do around the house or things to fix on the car and all the ordinary little things we have to do just to keep on functioning in life.  So sometimes I feel like I’m being pulled in many different directions, all of them desireable, surely, but one still can’t do everything at once.  Sometimes I sit down at night, knowing I probably ought to be working on something, but unable to properly fixate on which something I ought to do first.

So I do my best to spread out my activities.  Being someone who puts so much faith in balance and paradox, I believe one should try to do as many different things as possible, and also sieze any opportunity to do several things at once (like playing Heroscape with my kids, or working on one of my CPAN modules for work).  And I try to fight through my feelings of Torschlusspanik so that I can still enjoy things like finding German words for concepts we don’t have in English.  Or deep philosophical ponderings.  Like wondering if euneeblics are really just trying to overcome their Weltschmerz.

1 Although, technically, goldfish aren’t tropical fish.  Probably you don’t care about that distinction.  But I mention it so that I can prove I know the difference in case I’m verbally attacked by aquarium nerds.

2 German nouns are always capitalized, in German.  There is some debate as to whether German loanwords should be capitalized in English.  You can see which side of the debate I come down on.

3 Fair warning: I’m pretty sure that story is an urban legend.  But still a good story.

4 Remember: “sniglet” itself is defined as “any word that doesn’t appear in the dictionary, but should.”

5 Hey, look: Schadenfreude!

6 I really ought to write a whole blog post on this.  I keep referring to it, but a longer exploration of this interesting scientific theory is probably in order.