Etymology: Originally a nonsense refrain in several old songs, used to make the song longer without adding more meaningful matter.

Nonsense or foolishness.

See also: frippery


This is one of my favorite words. I heard it used in a sentence this week in relation to the Brexit machinations of Boris Johnson. Since it was a British podcast, this might not rank as a rare occurrence.

Odious Oatiness

The Wife hates my morning oatmeal. Hates it. Basically, she just hates all oatmeal, all the time. But especially my morning oatmeal. I don’t know why. It’s heaven for me.

First you start with a quarter cup of oats. Add a heaping tablespoon of PB-Fit powder. Then add about half a teaspoon of dark brown sugar. Then you poor a cup of hot water across the mixture, stir and let it set for five to ten minutes. Then you add in a handful of fresh or frozen blueberries and microwave the mixture until it has boiled for a little over a minute. Let it stand again for about ten minutes. Then you add the piece-de-resistance.

Pour a half-cup of oatmilk across it and stir the mixture again. Oatmilk is the best milk for eating any cereal with. Why? Because it tastes like you’ve already had cereal in it. That was my favorite part of breakfast as a child. I never liked the taste of milk even before I became lactose intolerant (or whatever it is that my gut objects to when it comes to milk) But. Pour milk over cereal and let the cereal soak a bit. After eating the cereal you drink the milk out of the bowl. Yum. I mean, that milk beat chocolate milk for flavor, even if all you had in the way of cereal was Raisin Bran.

The oatmeal I make in the morning tastes like peanut butter oatmeal cookies. I can’t start my day without it. Yesterday we were running late for an appointment and The Wife was trying to help get me out the door. I have no sense of time. I never have, and being disabled has only decoupled me further from whatever time sense I had as a working adult. So I asked her to open the new cartoon of oatmilk and pour it while I grabbed the last bit of stuff on the way out the door. As she hands the bowl to me she says “I don’t think I shook the milk enough before pouring. It won’t be as odious, I’m sorry.”

She claimed she meant oatiness. “Won’t have it’s oatiness.” But I know a freudian slip when I hear one.

Unnütze Esser

(lit. “useless eaters” or “useless mouths”) Similar to life unworthy of life, a designation for Jews unable to work, people with serious medical problems or disabilities, and other Untermenschen not deemed to be useful to Germany.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

On March 28th, 2019, we learned that the proposed Trump budget was going to defund the Special Olympics, as well as strip the paltry millions away from special needs children across the United States. Betsy Devos defunding Special Olympics? They are useless eaters after all. The Orange Hate-Monkey, coward that he is (luckily for targets that he selects) backpedaled as fast as his bone spur disability would let him. At least, when it comes to visible programs like the Special Olympics he is backpedaling. But when it comes to the more invisible cuts? What happens to them? Are they rescinded?

Whether he says they are or not, whether congress overrides his ridiculous budget and drafts a new one from whole cloth, the question still remains, why? Why target these programs in the first place? Because they enable the useless eaters in our midst, that’s why.

That is also why he wants to change disability insurance and defund social security and kill Obamacare. All of those programs allow people to survive without working, and you can’t keep paying people not to work. If you are a Nazi a fascist or a stormtrumper, that is what you believe. If you believe this, like a stormtrumper does, then you want people like me to die. I have some bad news for you. I’m not planning on checking out anytime soon.

Annoying Ya’ll

I occasionally riff on word spellings and definitions on the blog. I don’t do it very often, but when I do, I go all in on the subject. I’m especially fond of obvious, having tripped over that word and its subtlety of definition enough times in the past. This image appeared in my newsfeed awhile back and it resonated with me. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve typed something into a computer interface and had it not recognize the word or phrasing I knew was correct, or hoped was correct. You know how it is. I think this is a word, but spellcheck will save me from having to go dig out a dictionary and look the word up.

Or maybe you don’t know? Who has dictionaries anymore? I haven’t used one in years, but I have a few in the house. Who needs a dictionary when you can just ask one of those ridiculous computer assistants to tell you how to spell onomatopoeia or ask them what something means or to get synonyms for balk. Having to actually type words into the computer by hand?! How quaint.

Back when I was writing specifications, tech manuals and notes for architectural drawings, it used to drive me nuts having to check and then tell the computer to ignore (Passive voice! Arrrg! Everything in a specification is written in passive voice!) a spelling or word usage, or to add the more common ones to my personal dictionary. It isn’t worth the investment in time to modify standard spellings for obscure words on company computer spelling dictionaries. Computers that you are forced to abandon every other year.

…And don’t get me started on latin legal phrases or attempting to point out fallacious arguments with well-known shorthand acronyms. Or slang. Really, don’t get me started on slang. I mean it. Or as I said on Facebook at the time,

I find it amusing when someone outside of the South tries to tell me how to spell ya’ll. As if there is proper spelling for slang.

Another friend of mine immediately linked to a blog article on just that subject, completely missing the point that I was trying to make in their rush to insist that there was a correct spelling for the words we use in everyday conversation. Improper conjugations and amalgamations of words that may or may not make any sense to the speaker or the listener.

Some writers put the apostrophe AFTER the ‘a’, as in: ya’ll. *shudders* Now tell me, does that make ANY sense given the law of contractions? No. It does not. The proper way to contract ‘you all’ is by using the apostrophe to replace the ‘ou’ in you and the space between the words, as in: y’all It’s beautiful in its simplicity, don’t you think? Boy, do I feel better, maybe even up to tackling a semi-colon or two. Thanks for letting me get that out of my system

Ya’ll vs. Y’all – A Texan’s Anguish

Now if I was trying to impart colloquialism, trying to drag you kicking and screaming into one of the Southern states of the United States, someplace where ya’ll is a word ya’ll’d hear regularly, I might quip something like them’s fightin’ words or something to that effect. But since you wouldn’t know the frame in which to place my attempts to communicate southernisms, most likely my attempts to draw you into the picture will fail and I’ll just look like an idiot. I’m used to that, but it isn’t a productive use of my time to repeat failed lessons from the past. I’m a quick learner, rumors to the contrary.

To put the problem as simply as I can, the error is in believing that ya’ll is a contraction to start with. As if ya’ll was ever two words compressed into one. As if slang is capable of being defined or set down into anything permanent, what written language is, and still preserve the emotion of the speaker and listener(s). It simply can’t be done. Even the best writers comment on how what they wrote is received by the reader, and how they don’t get the emotion that they hear in their head reflected back from the average reader.

The problem isn’t that simple. It isn’t something that can be fixed that easily. Just knowing the proper spelling for a Southernism will not make you Southern. Just knowing how ya’ll fix the issue of pronouns in your region of the English speaking world will not make me understand what it is to be from that region. The problem is that English is broken when it comes to second and third party plural pronouns.

In “standard American English,” meaning, essentially, schoolroom English, the second person pronoun is “you,” for either singular or plural. Talking to your spouse? Use “you.” Talking to your spouse and his or her entire family, at the same time? Use…well, also use “you.” It is a huge, strange weakness in American English: when someone is talking to a group of people, we have no way of indicating whether the speaker is talking to only one person or the entire group. Peeking your head out from the kitchen at a dinner party and asking, “Hey, can you get me a drink?” is likely to score you a look of confusion. Who are you talking to, exactly?

Thou and ye is a perfectly fine arrangement of second-person pronouns, and we’d all be better off if they’d stuck around, but they didn’t. Nobody exactly knows why, but scholars have focused on the mid-17th century work of Shakespeare to help tell us how people were talking to each other and what pronouns they were using.

Atlas Obscura, Y’all, You’uns, Yinz, Youse: How Regional Dialects Are Fixing Standard English

There’s no two ways about it, English is broken when it comes to pronouns. You could be any number of people including just one person. I’ve had innumerable written confrontations with people on the internet just because they read the word you and think he’s talking to me. And while I am talking to you, I’m also talking to the ten thousand or a million or even a billion other yous that might happen upon these words and read them. It is a conundrum of English that I cannot express the difference between you (thee) and you (them) The Wife and I will occasionally use thou and thee because we are weird people who read a lot. You can blame Piers Anthony for that.

Speaking of readers: sometimes things in my fantasy fiction become real in Mundania. One is the “Thee Thee Thee” convention, said as a declaration of complete love. I was told of a couple who married using that instead of “I do.” Now I have heard of one who did use it as part of the ceremony, some time ago; he is now dead and she is passing along the ring to a family member with the words engraved on it. She asked me which book it came from, and I said Out of Phaze, where the robot Mach calls it out to save his beloved Fleta from death, the sheer power of that declaration nullifying the magic that had doomed her. But then I thought, how did Mach know to do that? Did the convention appear earlier? My senescent brain does not provide the answer, and I’m too busy to reread my own earlier novels; time is a greater constraint for me than money. If there is a reader out there whose memory is better than mine (that is to say, most of them), please let me know, so I can let my reader with the ring know: what was the first instance of the “Thee Thee Thee” convention?

Piers Anthony

It’s somewhere in the Blue Adept series, Mr. Anthony. It was earlier than the one you recall. It’s been thirty years since I read the series myself. I have no idea where the first instance is, but it definitely was not that passage of the book. I’m sure someone knows and will correct both of us pretty much the minute I hit enter. They probably corrected you (or thee) the minute you hit enter, too. Unfortunately, that newsletter wasn’t the one I found first. This is an aside, don’t get your underwear in a bunch.

I have had people accost me before (carpetbaggers, mostly) insisting that ya’ll is properly spelled y’all. That it is a contraction of you and all and so duh! But as I say to them, that’s a connector between ya and ll, that little hanging bit (‘) in the middle. The apostrophe. The apostrophe represents any number of letters, syllables and whole words the speaker doesn’t feel they need to take the time to pronounce. If you actually attempted to write the word phonetically, it would have at least two a’s in it, something more akin to ya’all or ya-all. After a bit of pushback on the subject, more than a bit to be honest, I decided I’d trot out an example to illustrate the point I was trying to make. Consider the following sentence, which I’m sure most Southerners have heard more than once. What does this sentence mean?

Ya’ll be round later

Is it a question? Is it a statement? A demand? What words and/or punctuation will complete that sentence coherently? Is “you” or “all” in it? Well, it depends on the speaker. If they’re asking a question:

Ya’ll be round later?

It would probably be completed something like this,

Will all of you be present when I need you later?

If the speaker is making a statement:

Ya’ll be round later.

It would render out something like the following in proper English,

Come by the house later, I’ll be here.

or maybe something more like Go (wherever I’m going) and we’ll meet up later. There really is no telling what the speaker meant without the context of the usage. If the speaker is making a demand:

Ya’ll be round later.

It would come out something like,

You will be here later when I’m looking for you.

…And if it was dad (or pop maybe) making this demand, you’d better be where he wanted you to be when he was expecting it, or there would be hell to pay. So ya’ll is not two words squeezed together. It is a hodgepodge of meaning scrunched into four letters and an apostrophe, and I can spell it any damn way I like.

I don’t go around pretending to know how to spell any number of words that they might say in New Jersey (youse? use? Who knows?) it’s slang. They have the same problem that the rest of the English speaking world has, no way to speak clearly to an individual or a group using indefinite pronouns to define the loose collection of people being spoken to. You guys, you’unz, whatever. We’re all just making it up as we go along. Sometimes the apostrophe just shows up where it wants to. There is no accounting for it.

But try and explain it all again to me, if you feel the need. I’m from here, I’ve got nothing but time. But I do thank you for spending the time it took to read this. If ya’ll are ever in the neighborhood, come by and sit a spell. The tea will be on ice, but it won’t be sweet. There’s only so many Southernisms you can indulge in before the accumulation of them kills you.

Wildly expanded article first published in 2014.

The Unappreciated Art of the Troll

“To make a deliberately offensive or provocative online posting with the aim of upsetting someone or eliciting an angry response from them.”

“To fish by trailing a baited line along behind a boat.”

Google search result for trolling

I grew up washing lures on Swanson reservoir. I know what the second definition for trolling means. Washing lures is what my dad jokingly called trolling. Trolling for fish. We spent hours and days on end idling up and down the reservoir never getting a bite. That was the usual method of trolling. As the old adage goes, if throwing a lure in the water always brought back a fish, they’d call it catching not fishing.

Sometimes we’d get into a school of fish, and then the trolling would go viral. We’d get 8, 10, sometimes thirty fish on those days. Those were the rare days. The reason for going fishing in the first place.

There are fish on the internet too, it’s just kind of hard to tell the difference between a fish (a mark as fraudsters and con artists label them) and another troll or even an anti-troll.

Trolls inhabit our daily lives, waiting under every figurative bridge along your route, waiting to jump out and try to ruin your day. Online trolls are the ones most people notice, but there are trolls offline as well. We don’t recognize them because we know them by name, not by their behavior.

Decades of trial and error on the internet, as well as at work and at play have proven to me that my default behavior is anti-troll. The barbed replies that I compose to posts in online forums and social platforms frequently happen without any planning on my part. Counter-trolling the unwanted and unwelcome, tormenting them with attacks that they will feel obliged to lash out at, speaks to internal issues of conformity and certitude that I wrestle with. And I do wrestle with them from online moment to online moment. There have been far more words that I’ve deleted from posts than I’ve ever posted in the decades since I started spending time on the internet.

Trolling is an obscure internet behavioral reference to just drop on the uninitiated. I figure if you got to this blog, you probably know your way around the internet. But still, most of us use words all day long that we don’t really have definitions for and can’t really define if pressed. I started this post with a definition for trolling, and I included both definitions for the behavior for a reason. Trolling is seen in one light by the troll, in the other light by those being trolled. Trolls think they are the good guys. They are certain they know the truth and they think they are convincing people by trolling. They are speaking to the silent masses reading with a knowing eye and not to the people they are arguing with. They are expecting their antagonists to admit that they are fakes and to walk away from the argument as changed people. If they think they are arguing with a person and take that person seriously.

It is an open question whether the troll conceives of their opponents as people. It is definitely an open question whether they take their opponent seriously. Most of them do not take their opponents seriously. Most of them think this is all a joke, and they are probably laughing for the entire time they troll. The fact that they just might be wrong on the ideas they are promoting never even crosses their minds. If the thought did cross their minds, they would never go where they go and say the crazy things they say.

So when a troll posts in a forum, any forum about anything at all, they are posting specifically to attract the unwary. Hoping against hope that someone will acknowledge their existence and gratify their longing to make a difference by taking the time to argue with them about whatever it is they posted. Cat videos in a dog forum. Dog memes in a cat forum. Rainbow colored memes in a conservative forum. Gun images in a liberal forum. Hentai memes in an Anime forum. Whatever it is, their fondest wish is that you click on their thing and reward them with your attention. Once they have a flame war going, they are like hogs in a wallow. They roll luxuriously through the mud being slung in every direction. Which is generally where people like me show up. Flame war going, hogs wallowing, attention being lavished on the undeserving. From the anti-trolling perspective.

When people like me see an inept attempt to troll a group that the troll doesn’t like, we can’t keep ourselves from trolling them right back. Our desire is to put out the flame war, to deny the troll the attention that they are looking for. We offend the easily offended so that they will leave the conversation. Piss off the trolls so that they abandon their own threads, or cross some preset line of conduct that will get them evicted from the forum or punished in some other fashion. If nothing else works, spamming a thread with nonsense will generally put out a flame war because no one can keep track of what was said last by whom, silencing both sides with avalanches of bullshit.

Why do I and others like me do this? If you are going to take pleasure in causing someone else pain, at least have the decency to be good at it. That is why.

I have tried many things to remedy this habit of mine. Proactive blocking. Spam reporting. Hate-speech reporting. Nothing seems to stem the unending tide of idiots who think they know how to score points on their enemy. There are just too many of you inept motherfuckers out there. I can’t escape you and your pathetic drivel, so I will do the only other thing available to me. I will write a primer on the subject so that I can hand it out to you when I regrettably run across one of you.

The first bit of business, like most subjects of discussion, isn’t what you think it is. You, dear reader, probably think that I’m going to illustrate how to compose a decent meme or perhaps lecture on shouting at people in ALL CAPS. This isn’t that kind of blog. There are other places you can go for that information. I am not your internet help desk. No, the first thing to understand is knowing when you are being trollish. Learn to recognize when you are causing pain to another person and to ask for forgiveness if offense is legitimately taken. The first order of business is to understand what it means to troll. If you don’t know what you are trying to do, you will not be successful in carrying out your mission.

Your initial post should be savvy enough to be taken seriously by the casual observer. Posting porn images to a photography group will reliably get you banned the first time you do it. So don’t do it from an account you might want to use again, if that’s your thing. On the other hand, social posting has to attract attention in order to be social. A dialog rather than a monologue. Why post at all if what you are doing is going to be ignored? Why talk to yourself online? You might as well log off and go masturbate if you are just playing with yourself; and frankly, most trolls would be better off masturbating more often anyway. It relieves the stress to perform well, take it from an old hand at this. If you are thinking about trolling, go masturbate first. It’s better for everyone if you do.

Back already? Well, that was quick. Where were we? Ah, yes, the meaning of trolling, crafting a successful troll. You want to be provocative, but not offensive. You want to question the status quo but do so in a way that won’t get you evicted from a group. It is a consequence of this fact of internet life, the loneliness of it, the desire to gain the attention of others, that makes nearly every internet post an attempt to troll, an attempt to get people to pay attention to you, to dig me as George Carlin once put the question on his album Class Clown.

Virtually all comedy is trolling behavior. Anything you think is funny is probably offensive to someone. Posting humor will get you labeled as a troll, especially if you post that humor in places where whoever is being made fun of hang out. Telling Polack jokes on a Polish immigrant forum will get you banned as someone engaging in hate speech pretty quickly, and probably rightly so. Polack jokes are so 1990’s. Get with the times. Clearly the targets of choice have shifted back to the brown-skinned people South of the US border. If you are from Texas you reference them by pointing out they have to swim to get to this side of the border. In New Mexico, Arizona and California (states with land borders) that kind of reference is considered racist and will get you outed as a racist. And rightly so. So the second point of successfully trolling is to know the subject that you hope to exploit. Even in Texas you can be confused with a racist if you are so insensitive as to name a movie Deadbacks in humorous reference to the racial epithets of yesteryear.

Writing by its very nature implies that someone will read what you write. If no one reads it, do the words even exist? That is a bit metaphysical, isn’t it? Unlike speech, which elicits response if anyone can hear you, even when you are talking to yourself, writing really does imply that someone will read the words you write. Every writer imagines someone they are writing to while they are writing. That is how you gauge whether you are getting across to your audience, you imagine who they are as you type. Are they confused? Misunderstood? Go back and read anything you’ve written in the past, like I have done on this blog. Go back and read the things you wrote ten years ago, see if you recognize the person writing at that time. So many things we think are important at any given time look pathetically misguided in hindsight.

Most people hate to think about the things they believe. Asking another person to do that is generally branded as trollish behavior. The most provocative thing you can do online is to challenge someone else’s beliefs. Any ideologue is a prime target for trolling. It isn’t just conservatives in the wild who are susceptible. It is also anarchists and socialists, any group or person more allied with a set of ideas than they are with other people.

That homophobe or transphobe you are always running across is no more deserving of trolling than the social justice warrior who doesn’t know when to shut up. The Jehovah’s Witness who rings your doorbell on a Sunday morning that you’ve always wanted to introduce to the Flying Spaghetti Monster is on the same level as a target of trolling as that atheist friend who thinks all religion is stupid is a target. If you’ve asked a question specifically to get someone to question their beliefs, congratulations, you are a troll.

If you’ve ever engaged in anything other than casual conversation, you’ve probably engaged in trolling behavior yourself. Admit this fact, we’ll keep it between ourselves. No one will know of the secret pleasure felt when someone rewards you with a reply to your cleverly worded bait. It’s OK, we all do it. Everyone is a troll in some fashion, especially the people who think they would never do that. Like passive aggressiveness, everyone has trolled at least once. All of us find ourselves in conversations online and off, conversations that we weren’t invited to, have no real interest in, or are required to participate in because of social norms. You just want a drink of water and the group at the water cooler stares at you as you approach. Do you offer an insight or just duck and cover? The smart person might keep to himself, but the adventurous amongst us probably attempts to riff on what the conversation appeared to be when it suddenly included them. If the comment can be deemed provocative in any way, congratulations you have just trolled the water cooler.

This behavior, trolling, is not really a new thing at all in spite of the fact that it never had a name before the internet evolved. It is the way that conversation has evolved over the millennia from basic communication needs, imparting information from one person to another that was life critical,

Food. There.

Into ways to convey complex levels of thought and to do so with enough rigor that the teachings were retained through multiple generations of descendants. The briefest of excursions into the subject of Freemasonry will shed light on just how convoluted verbal teachings can get, and just how misunderstood meanings passed down without writing and divorced of the concretes they deal with, specifically masonry in this case, can become.

It is not merely coincidental that some of the earliest human groups formed around the subject of masonry; nor is it coincidental that those groups sought to exclude others, the outgroup, from understanding what it was they were doing. The first recorded words that we still retain were recorded on stone by stone masons. And they retained their exclusive rank and that ability to divorce the spoken word from that impediment to communication, time, up until the fifteenth century and Johannes Gutenberg‘s masterful invention. It was only then that language becomes divorced from the spoken word. Only then that reading became something that anyone could afford to take time to learn and do, because it facilitated learning in other areas. Before the invention of moveable type you communicated all information directly, from master to apprentice, in words designed specifically to impart knowledge from the person with hands-on experience to the person who wanted to know how to do whatever that thing was.

After Gutenberg invented the printing press, it became more profitable for the master to write his knowledge down directly, so that his mastery could be spread wider. Could be spread to students who couldn’t hear his voice directly, because they lived in another town or even in another century. From Gutenberg’s invention until today we have continued to evolve the written word. From masters writing their knowledge down for the erudition of us all, into entire industries making billions of dollars off of the spreading of information world wide, into fat, naked old white men typing out their masurbatory fantasies in the darkness of their mother’s basement, all alone in the night. I’m not so sure this whole printing press thing is going to work out well in the end, from that perspective.

The first time the veracity of the information imparted was questioned,

that ain’t food, that’s shit.

Trolling was born. Deriding or dismissing the offered information. Refusing a directive like turning a blind eye. Being known for writing a rebuttal to a treatise that history has long since forgot. Trolling 101. Anyone can engage in this basic form of rebellion, just like the millions of meme-posters on Facebook, all of them convinced they are somehow unique and worthy of the attention of others. Facebook is the internet equivalent to the office watercooler, one step below icanhascheezburger on the meritocratic scale of trolling. Facebook is an intellectual level below lolcats, because lolcats know they are attention seekers and have to hone their craft against other self-admitted attention seekers. Most people on Facebook don’t even admit that what they want to gain by hanging out there is attention.

Facebook meme posters are to trolls what script kiddies are to hackers. Someone who only understands how to do one thing in a field that encompasses all known forms of things. Anyone can screen cap an offensive image and post it. Anyone can copy and paste a meme generator image, the kind you find reposted ad infinitum across the vast Facebook wasteland. It takes no talent at all to piss someone off. Shit flinging monkeys can do it with a single gesture. Hell, if it exists, is filled with memes.

The internet is so full of amateur mental gamers, amateur trolls, that there are terms created just for them. Just asking questions is now referred to as Jaqing off. A Facebook friend went off on a tear recently because someone suggested they were playing devil’s advocate. An artist never reveals his art as art. An artist creates and either the art is accepted or rejected. If you are going to play devil’s advocate, be the devil’s advocate. Don’t expect other people to indulge your mental masturbations, or to refrain from punishing you for your transgressions of norms. No one likes a showoff. No one respects an artist whose defense is but this is art or especially I was only joking.

The key to knowing when to troll and when not to troll is honesty. Knowing what results you want from a conversation and how you will get it. This knowledge turns a memer into someone interested in perfecting the art of the troll. A person interested in the shape of the conversation itself. It is at this point that the apprentice troll becomes a journeyman troll, believes himself capable of trolling like a master. This is the point where the smartass becomes the asshole, as in “the asshole that ruined [insert name here] forum.” I have been kicked off so many forums over the years that I’ve actually lost count. I was kicked off of most of them because that is what I wanted the moderators to do, although I may not have known it at the time. Challenge authority publicly and you will be smacked down. This occurs because 99.9% of authority’s effectiveness in the wild is based on fear of the application of force. If the mundanes you have authority over are not afraid of you, you will lose control sooner or later.

Respect can replace fear most the time, but there has to be mutual respect for hard and fast rules for this to occur. Mutual respect for rules, while a basis for any good argument, is sadly lacking in most online forums. Rules have to be enforceable to be hard rules. Rules against doing something the authority cannot even check on aren’t rules, they’re wishful thinking. It is not within the ability of a forum moderator to compel civil discourse, to prevent or observe that one member has blocked messages from another member, an example of a rule I broke and then told the moderators “I broke that rule” just so they would kick me. (the ploy worked. They changed the rule. I win) Hard and fast rules permeate the internet. You can be banned from forums just for observing that forum moderators are as naked as the emperor. Never tell authority that their rules are meaningless. You cannot compel discourse or civility in the wild. You can only control who gets to have a voice in your forum.

Contrary to popular belief, trolls do not ruin forums, moderators do. More to the point, a moderator is the shepherd of the forum, and the moderator needs to be given permission by the forum owner to do the job they need to do. The most damaging belief among forum moderators is that applying rules justly equates to censorship. That you cannot remove posts and users without denying them their free speech. You may never hear from that person again, or they might be back in minutes as a new user you’ve never heard of before; but either way the activities of a moderator are not censorship. Applying rules justly is how civilization is maintained, how progress is secured. Make no mistake, a bad moderator can destroy a forum but a good moderator can make a forum work flawlessly if they simply have the knack for smoothing over the rough bits. Here ends the moderator’s tangent.

Getting back to the assholes; as in, this is the point where the smartass becomes the asshole, assholes should be kicked off forums en masse, everywhere on the internet. Kicked and kicked again until they graduate to the next level of trolling, or cease to troll altogether. It is possible to not troll, The wife is one of those rare exceptions. Trolling is as alien to her as double entendres or puns. When she ventures into those fields it is hilarious because it is so unexpected. Every time she reads my posts she is baffled about why I bother. Every time she reads responses to my posts she is livid, and it’s all I can do to keep her from hunting the offending party down.

The only way to deal with assholes is to remove them, and like a bandage it is best done quickly to limit the pain. As many times as I’ve been kicked out of groups over the decades, there are even more places that I’ve been a member of that have been reduced to ghost towns by assholes who simply don’t know when to shut up and had control over that Uniform Resource Locator or subreddit. On more than one occasion, that asshole was me.

Some of the assholes never learn. They just get bitter. They just get angry. Anger is a copout. The targets of the troll are angry too. Justifiably so, in their eyes. That too is a copout, but it is an understandable one. People who are pushed, who are angry, lash out. A good moderator on a forum does what the name implies. A good moderator moderates.

“Dude, I know you think this is fun, but your target does not. I know you can’t see the tears, but there are tears.”

When kicked from a group, understand that you are in error. Authority is never in error. Authority never admits error, in any case. The only time authority ever admits error is when they are pulling a Gorbachev. They are on their way out, and on their way out they add “oh by the way, we fucked up. Sorry about that.” Trolls live for that moment. But the kicking? That is personal. It is all about you and your blindness to lines that everyone else knew was there and you didn’t. Until you crossed the line. Now you know where the line is. Cross that line again and expect the same results. Cross the same line the same way and now you are just being stupid. Keep crossing the same line and you turn into a criminal, not a troll.

This is the other point I wanted to make. Trolls are not criminals any more than hackers are criminals. Trolls that continue pursuing the same person after they’ve been warned off are stalkers. Trolls that harass after they’ve been warned off are guilty of harassment. Trolls (or anybody else) who threatens to harm another person have crossed one of the few universal hard and fast lines in human society. That person won’t be enjoying his liberty to troll people who aren’t in orange jumpers for much longer.

But there is hope. The existence of this blog is proof.

I learned. I survived and evolved. I knew that a change had occurred. For quite some time now I’ve changed tacks rather than bash my head against ineffectual moderation. I’ve walked away from conversations that were clearly going nowhere. The baited feeding the troll and all of them wallowing in troll varnish, another trophy to hang on the troll’s wall. I’ve walked away from conversations where my target wasn’t ever going to appreciate the time invested in pointing out their errors to them. I’ve simply packed up and left rather than finish the art, complete the conversational arc. I’ve walked away from forums where the moderators could not bring themselves to cull the assholes. The moderators couldn’t keep the Jaq-offs from posting every meme that crossed their newsfeed. If the sub-group is going to be subjected to everything on the larger forum, why join the group? It really is too bad that Facebook is about the only place left to have an argument in the wild on the internet. Yahoogroups? Dead. BBcode forums? Dead. Usenet? I’ve heard rumors they still exist. I haven’t been there in years.

I’ve wasted enough time flinging shit at other shit-flinging monkeys. There is no pleasure in it any longer. I have grown to appreciate the art of the troll while a growing despite for the mechanics of it keeps me from over-indulging.

You can say that you have graduated to an appreciation for the art of the troll when you can lead someone to a devastating conclusion blissfully unaware right up to that last step, and you leave them to it. You don’t hang around to admire the mess that ensues. That isn’t the point of a masterful troll, an artful troll. The point is to bring the offender into a position where they can recoil in horror at their own stupidity. Hang themselves with the lengths of rope that you’ve graciously continued to hand to them as they tied the knot and thrust their head through the loop to grin at you. Allowed the petty and the vain to impale themselves on their own sharp wits.

We all have a limited amount of time on this Earth and we can either fritter it away arguing with the ignorant and the ideologically blind, or we can spend time having conversations that have meaning and purpose and the potential for making positive changes in the world. More and more often these days, I’m choosing the latter. Anyone who comes into a forum for a specific point of view and purposefully trashes that point of view is not there to learn anything. They are there to convert by the sword. My response, now, is to repel with the sword. I block, report, and prosecute threats against my person. I block and report trolls who show up looking for a fight. I block, report and follow up on people who are racist, homophobic or Christianist to a dangerous level. That is how I’m going to make the world better for people who just want to live their lives as peacefully as possible.

That and this primer is all the trolls will ever get from me.

If you are reading this, go wish Henry Edward Hardy a good day in hell from me. It’s because of him this was posted today.

Troll, am I? How am I the troll when you objected to my laughing at Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me? Called me out on it, even? Get a dictionary, at least.

My feeling is that the reckless, no-consequences, tantrum culture that has evolved online was something that sprouted and became normalized through SF fandom way back when, which makes it incumbent on us who are still part of it to do whatever is possible to make things better. The internet getting devoured by rage culture is only inevitable if we leave the trolls to the cesspool.

Atomic Junk Shop, The Exaltation of Anger

Featured image from

Farpotshket in the Stairwell, Yet Again

All Things Considered – The New Words and Ideas We Need – August 26, 2005

L’esprit de l’escalier I think can be loosely translated as facepalm. That’s my best guess. He hits four or five other words in that bit of audio from All Things Considered back in 2005, including farpotshket, an expression that happens to me pretty much every time I try to fix anything. I especially liked l’esprit de l’escalier because who hasn’t had a witty or clever riposte occur to them as they are leaving a conversation and it is too late to use it.

L’esprit de l’escalier happens to me. All. The. Time. It happened just now. It happened when I read farpotshket on a friend’s Facebook wall and went looking for the meaning of the word (and pronunciation. I mean, WTF? How is that pronounced?) only to have the response lost before I made it back there to post this link. The spirit of the stairway simply doesn’t do the expression justice.


An Homage to Homage

The word whose usage is literally driving me nuts. It literally drives me nuts because I know that people saying it have only read it before attempting to speak it, and when they say it, they say it wrong nearly every single time.

Cop Out – Interrogation Scene

Tracy Morgan knows how to milk a line for comedy. He mispronounces homage over and over throughout Cop Out (2010) and every time he does it, it’s fucking hysterical. When he does it, it’s funny. When people who talk for a living do it repeatedly without realizing they’re doing it, it ain’t funny. Understand where your words come from, so that you can understand how to say them without sounding like an idiot.

Homage is French. It is said the same way in English as it is in French. If you speak another romance language and you think your version of the word is better, you are wrong. The French only get a few things right, how to make a croissant and how to pronounce the language they inherited from Rome. Why? Because the French were the only barbarians to understand Rome well enough to conquer and hold it for any significant length of time. So pronounce the word the way the French do and sound like you know what you are talking about. Pronounce it like someone from Wisconsin and you sound like someone who thinks they invented cheese when it was the French who did that too.

Also, there are not two definitions for the same word homage. Doing something in reverence or respect is to do something in homage. You don’t pronounce it differently for the different things you are respecting. The problem is that people assume that the person speaking has actually heard the word spoken before and so they know what they are talking about. Making an ass out of you and me does not make anything better, so don’t do that. Be like the French. Know that the word is said this one way, means this one thing, and c’est la vie or c’est la guerre. Pick your poison. 

How Not to Define Government

This image popped up in my Facebook news feed some years back. I can’t even find the originating image for it, it has been that long ago and had so little impact. I had several thoughts at the time which I lined out as bullet points. A rather lengthy breakdown for what is a five-minute throw-away joke image for Facebook.

Still. I know there are thousands, possibly even millions that would laugh at that joke. I in my previous libertarian persona would have probably accepted it as wryly humorous fact, which is precisely why I took the time to break down the many heuristical errors present in just thinking the observation true enough to be funny.

Not satisfied with wasting an hour or two breaking down a meaningless joke image once and filing it away, I have now spent even more time writing a lengthy post about it, proving the tagline of this blog is accurate.

As to the offered definition of government itself. You can believe any fool thing you want including that gravity doesn’t exist because it is a theory. I wouldn’t suggest jumping off buildings if you do, even though Douglas Adams describes learning to fly as throwing yourself at the ground and missing. Never mistake a joke for something that is true or actually possible. The image is a joke, it just isn’t a funny joke.

Government cannot actually defy science because government cannot change the laws of nature. That is why pi remains an irrational number most accurately described as 355/113 even though several governments have mistakenly believed they could change it. Math is always going to be math and 2+2=4 is true for every instance of reality as we know it. Do not throw the word quantum at me as a counter-argument because I will know that you are stupid if you do.

Economics really isn’t a science in much the same way and for the same reason that psychology is only vaguely a science. Both are in part human constructs held as beliefs within human minds. Therefore “laws of economics” are more rules of thumb than actual laws.

In short, even if there are laws of economics, we haven’t been observing them for long enough to know what they actually are. And given the vagaries of human behavior and the mercurial nature of states, people and institutions, the notion that there’s some grand mechanistic, master system that explains all and predicts everything is at best a comforting fiction and at worst a straitjacket that precludes creativity, forestalls innovation and destroys dynamism.

Referencing “the laws of economics” as a way to refute arguments or criticize ideas has the patina of clarity and certainty. The reality is that referencing such laws is simply another way to justify beliefs and inclinations. I may agree that the war on drugs is flawed, but not because it violates “laws of economics,” but rather because it fails in most of its basic goals. The test of whether government spending or central bank easing is good policy should be whether they succeed in ameliorating the problems of stagnant growth and high unemployment, not on what the “laws of economics” erroneously say about certain future outcomes.

The Atlantic, The Laws of Economics Don’t Exist

As an example, one can continue to print money without limit so long as the money isn’t allowed to collect anywhere in a volume large enough to break the system. People will continue to use and spend money blithely believing whatever they want to believe about the system they are part of so long as the system continues. That is the beauty of the human animal and its selective cognition machine that we call a brain. We only tend to notice structures when they fail,  and then we marvel at the complexity of the system that functioned so well that we never noticed it until it was gone.

Drafter, Drawer, Moron

An artist friend was lamenting being called a drawer recently. Tongue-in-cheek he informed the fan of his artwork that he was not a drawer, a single container in a dresser or chest of drawers, but was rather a draughtsman, thank you very much.

This witty rebuttal sent me scurrying to check word meanings at my favorite quick-reference of choice, Wikipedia. When I got there I discovered that I couldn’t use Wikipedia as a reference for this subject, as I have discovered with previous subjects on this blog. Wikipedia defaults to popular word usage and doesn’t reference the word draftsman, or draftsperson if you insist on neutralizing the word. It doesn’t even reference the proper English Draughtsman that my friend used. No, wikipedia gathers all discussion of the field of technical illustration under the term…


The sound that you are hearing is the spinning of a million proofreaders in their graves. It’s quite a rumble, isn’t it? A drafter is a racing driver following a pack leader close enough to get a speed boost from the lead car’s wake in the air. In no way, shape or form is a draftsman a drafter. That just isn’t English.

Bob Ross Channel Trailer Oct 6, 2017

An artist creates art. A draughtsman or draftsman produces technical drawings (which is where the slang drawer comes from) I was a draftsman for many years, I know what I’m talking about. Applying art techniques to technical drawings produces a “rendering,” something I have hired artists to do. I would never refer to an artist as a draftsman. That is an insult worthy of a good cuffing in my book. What artists and draftsmen do look similar on the surface but are in actuality two completely different fields of work.

John R. Mullaney APC Cutaway : Special Edition Sep 14, 2015

The insistence on sounding like a moron when speaking has driven me crazy for years, drafter/drawer is just the latest insult that I’ve stumbled across, and that one has bugged me since I started drawing. As far back as I can remember I have tried to correct the poor word usage of others only to be rewarded with the label of smartass from most of the people I’ve tried to educate. I was either born a proofreader or a pedant and I’ve never worked out which group I’d rather be affiliated with, but it does remind me of one of the few times that I managed to get the last laugh on the subject.

In the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, Blizzard added the inscription profession to World of Warcraft. I thought a scribe would be an interesting profession to get the Loremaster achievement with (Scribe. Lore. Get it?) so I spent a lot of time on the two ‘toons that I leveled as scribes. In World of Warcraft, like most MMO’s, you can spend a lot of time making things for other players. There are chat channels in the game where you can request needed items from or advertise your profession; and none of the players that I ran across in 6 years could figure out that someone who inscribes is referred to as a scribe. Inscriptors? Scripties? You name it. Never a request for a Scribe. In a moment of frustration I hit upon the right way to deal with this annoyance. I started explaining to the poor illiterate souls that a practitioner of inscription was referred to in a variation that reflected the sex of the practitioner. Like draftsman or draftswoman and many words found in romance languages. There was a sexual differentiation in the names and you needed to be sure to use the right one. Females were to be referred to as inscriptionatrixes. Males were only to be called inscriptionators. In six years of playing World of Warcraft, that joke never got old.

Republican, Republican; Democrat, Democratic

I spent the last few hours listening to Maajid Nawaz in conversation with Sam Harris on the Waking Up podcast. This is the first time I’ve heard him speak and he seems like a honest, earnest person.

Waking Up With Sam Harris #59 – Friend & Foe (with Maajid Nawaz)

…except for this one thing. This one thing that drives me absolutely nuts.

It is the Democratic party, not the Democrat party. That is how the word is properly used. Pouty Republicans and conservatives who want to discredit the Democrats invented (or reinvented) this little conundrum of wordplay as a dogwhistle to separate themselves from the rest of the liberal press, and anyone who uses this dogwhistle is either a member of the conservative press or is blind to the subtleness of word usage that propagandists rely on to spread their message.

You see, Republicans want to rob Democrats of the subliminal linkage of the Democratic party and the democratic process; and they are attempting to do this by pretending that words when used as a party name should not be conjugated in the same way. This is false and it sounds forced when spoken.

I have a hard time believing someone is being truthful with me when they take the time to pervert the english language in this way, purposefully using a word incorrectly to call attention to the difference between a process and a party name.

The Democrats are far more democratic than the Republicans currently are. It is the neoconservatives who used to be Democrats, Democrats who had no problem perverting the democratic process when they were Democrats, who are now perverting the democratic process by denying the vote to larger and larger sections of the population in efforts to keep their Republican conservatives in power for a few more terms before the inevitable shift of power occurs.

The true test of whether the Democrats are democratic will come when, having regained power, they return to the undemocratic ways of their past. Will they adopt the same perversions of the process that they previously practiced? That their neoconservative soon to be neoliberal power brokers will want to reimpose but now from the other side? Vote suppression? Gerrymandering? Or will we force them to create systems which are actually unbiased and open for the first time in US history?

Will we pass the test our forebears failed, or will we fail as they have?

As for the rest of the subjects of the podcast, they were thought-provoking if not outright wrong on many points. How many times will I have to hear the false conservative talking point “won’t say islamic terrorist?” I’m hoping I have heard it for the last time. We’ll just have to see how much difference there is now that the conservatives have everything they’ve ever wanted since 1980. Now’s your chance boys. How bad can you fuck it all up? Sadly, we are about to find out.

This article is tagged errata because I once had a tendency to do this myself. A failing I have since corrected so isn’t preserved on this blog. But still, I’m trying for absolute honesty here. Well, as close to honesty as any human and his public diary can be.