Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Pet Peeves: Words Mean Things

In The Princess Bride, Inigo Montoya famously tells Vizzini, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

A lot of people have pet words. Groups of people have pet words, too. If you follow the news, you'll see it. As one commentator repeatedly has noted through the years, the media will pick a word, and every broadcaster will use it in every broadcast about the story. The word "gravitas" comes to mind from the 2000 election, used to describe George W. Bush's selection of Richard Cheney as his running mate.

One word that I've seen thrown around a lot lately is derivitives of the suffix "-phobic". According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of phobic is:
of, relating to, or having an extremely strong fear or dislike of someone or something
Dictionary.com further defines phobia as:
a persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it.
The key word in that definition I'd like to glom onto is "irrational". Just because you don't like something doesn't mean you have an irrational fear of it.

There are many things I don't like.

  • I don't like shopping (except for yarn, books, and fabric.) 
  • I don't like crowds (ironically, ochlophobia, the fear of crowds, is today's Dictionary.com word of the day.)
  • I don't like murderers, people who abuse their power, people who abuse children or animals, or people who cheat on their spouses.
  • I REALLY don't like the TSA. This one came forth when I was in Seattle with my son for his bone marrow transplant. I refused to fly back from Seattle with my son because it sent me into a tizzy, nearly to a nervous breakdown every time I thought about having to go through security, alone with my son, and all of his medicines and medical gear. 

Okay, I may be a bit TSA-phobic.

But, I'm not ochlophobic or phobic of shopping. I will go out in crowds. I don't enjoy it, and with having a post-BMT child, I'm reaching for my hand sanitizer often and keeping a lookout for people coughing or sneezing.

Being a writer, I understand the difference. So, I'm beginning to get offended by how often people throw around phobias willy-nilly. If I don't agree with you on something, I must be phobic of it. Nope. Not irrationally afraid of it, I just don't agree.

Yet, certain groups of people want to accuse other groups of people of phobias just because we disagree!

THIS is how we have the breakdown of our language, when we allow words meanings to be weakened by improper usage. We as writers and speakers of the English language (and I'm sure this happens in other languages, too) need to stand up and protest this. When you're in a conversation with your friend and they laugh and say, "I'm so agoraphobic. I can barely bring myself to drink water!", drill down with them, and get them to see that they don't have an irrational fear of water, they just prefer to drink something else. (Especially use this if you know they love to swim and get a shower every day.)

We as writers should take the time to educate those around us. Otherwise, they'll still be stumbling around in the dark, repeating the same drivel they've improperly learned. Only by proper education (and maybe a few bashings over the head with an unabridged dictionary) can we retake our unique language.

Until next time...

If you haven't had an opportunity yet, please go pick up a copy of my short story, CSI Effect, over at Amazon. Please take 30 minutes to read it, and if you can, take the time to post a review! Thanks so much! -- LS

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Amazon Drones On

So, the big news in the last week, among other things, was that Amazon.com was researching the idea of using drones to deliver packages near their repositories.

Source: BBC
This is an interesting idea, but I have mixed feelings about it.

First, my pro-side says that this could really speed up deliveries. Don't have to worry too much about UPS trucks catching fire and burning your package to tho dust. For those outside the distance that would be served, it would free up delivery space so you'd probably see improved response, too. And, it would probably be something that would allow Amazon Fresh to expand into other markets, too. (While I haven't used the service, I saw the delivery vans while in Seattle for 5 1/2 months with my son earlier this year.)

So, yea! Speedier deliveries!

However, another story from a few months ago niggled in my brain when I heard about this.

I believe it was in Colorado (and probably other jurisdicitons as well) where certain towns and counties were considering offering a bounty for drones being shot down.

Now, I'm a conservative, bordering on libertarian. I try to keep that part off this blog for a reason (mostly because I don't want a lot of fighting and hate on my blog, but also because there's an international audience to this blog who really couldn't give a rat's behind about my occasional opinions on politics.) Where my philosophy comes in is that I honestly don't see a problem with shooting down government drones because they've overstepped their bounds of privacy on the individual. But, what if some nincompoop shoots down the Amazon drone bringing me a new battery for my laptop or a box filled with my books for a book signing, thinking it's a government drone? What happens then?

I haven't seen a drone in person, just pictures on the internet, and on the news. However, I think they're rather small, especially the ones demoed on the evening news for Amazon the other night. Unless your average Joe with his high-powered rifle has a very exceptional scope, he's probably not going to be able to tell the difference between a drone launched by the EPA surveying cattle emissions and one launched from the Amazon hub nearby making deliveries.

While I think the idea of having a drone make deliveries for companies is an applaudable, I do think these companies would be remiss if they didn't investigate the legalities of what happens if their drone gets shot down. I'm sure they've got teams of lawyers looking at these laws already--at least, I hope they do!

Legislatures will need to stay current with this as these new technologies come into commonality as well. Unfortunately, our legislative process does move quite slowly in most instances--and for good reason. But this will be a topic that our legislatures and city councils across our country will need to stay on top of, and work to find ways to protect our free economy.

There's a lot to think about as these new technologies become commonplace. (I, personally, am waiting for my transporter, food replicator, and lightsaber!) It would behoove us to be thoughtful as we decide how to integrate them into our lives.

Until next time...

Oh, P.S.

I'm not going to make a huge deal out of it because it's ONE story, but I did post my first self-published short story on Amazon yesterday for $0.99. If you feel so inclined, go take a peek.  It won an honorable mention in the Team PYP short story project in 2011/2012. This is the first time it's been seen outside of the Team PYP group. Enjoy!

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