Prepositions: Addiction or Dependency?

A terrible affliction hampers millions today, yet is virtually unknown. Its victims usually suffer silently, not even aware the malady burdening them is curable. I’m talking about Prepositional Phrase Addiction. PPA affects all races and nationalities, but engineers, scientists, and academics suffer the most. Current research indicates PPA is communicable, usually transmitted through colleges, universities, and laboratories. Preventing PPA is extremely difficult; there is good news: PPA is curable.

Prepositional Phrase Addiction Cure Experts work with editors, literacy experts, and librarians, providing punctuation therapy and preposition aversion training. PPACE programs help thousands of professionals whose communication efforts — their thoughts and ideas — would otherwise fail.

Here is what PPACE did for one former sufferer. This is a typical sentence, written before treatment:

If in the initial testing of the solvent, not all of the “necessary and sufficient” properties are within the acceptance criteria specified in the Test Specification, the Solvent Developer and the cognizant engineer collaborate to come to a closure on a path forward which may include a change of acceptance criteria.

Following treatment, the same person wrote:

In initial solvent testing, some “necessary and sufficient” properties could measure beyond or below the requirements. If so, the Solvent Developer and the cognizant engineer collaborate to resolve the shortfall; such resolution may include changing the acceptance criteria.

Countless working professionals await PPACE programs, many unaware of the suffering their malady causes. Please help.

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Hitler is not Hank Williams Jr’s problem

There has been a lot of coverage of Hank Williams Jr’s poor choice of metaphor apropos of President Obama and Speaker Boehner, as well as the football fallout and his unapology. Mr. Williams’ breakage of Godwin’s Law isn’t the dangerous part, though.

I normally avoid any discussion of politics; it’s as fruitful as porcine voice lessons, and worse company. I can’t get this one out of my head, though. So I’m putting it up on my blog, where no one will see it and I can get it off my chest.

Mr. Williams tried to explain his choice of words by characterizing Mr. Obama as “the enemy.” He said the first and third most powerful men in the US government are “polar opposites” who “don’t see eye-to-eye and never will.” He obviously feels that the President and the Speaker of the House shouldn’t be on speaking terms with one another, let alone playing golf together. He also complained that the “Tea Party” is painted as extremist, and implied that it’s because the “Tea Party” is made up of working-class people. He also tried to reassure people that he has “always respected the office of the President.”

Mr. Williams, like many of those self-confident, outspoken “Tea Party” folks, have come to have a deep misunderstanding of what “compromise” is. The ability to form a compromise between individuals or groups is a strength, and the lifeblood of a representative democracy. Compromise is not a weakness that inevitably means you’ve betrayed your principles. Compromise acknowledges that both sides (or even all sides) of an issue have some merit. Compromise takes it as a given that attaining some of our goals is better than attaining none of them. Compromise shows maturity, confidence, humility, wisdom, and kindness. Compromise grants respect to others, allows the same treatment in return, and invests in future negotiations by building trust, camaraderie, and association.

The headlong rush of politics away from any ability to reach a compromise is the primary symptom of the decline of the United States, and the inevitable end product of three generations of Me-first, temper-tantrum, “my way or the highway” living. Check off another item on your Book of Revelation to-do list; nothing can stop it now.

Are you advertising or apologizing?

I can’t stand Chevy’s ad campaign for their new electric car.  “More car than electric”? Really?

It sounds like an apology to truck buyers that they’ve become brie-munching, chardonnay-swilling, vote-for-weed Liberals.  Not that they have (or haven’t) – I’m in no position to know either way.  But this marketing slogan is, “It’s still a car, really!  It’s not gutless or weenie or anything like that.  We’re not turning into Toyota!”   The title on the webpage is almost as bad: “The future is here, and America is back in the game.”  Meaning they admit up front that US carmakers are playing catch-up when it comes to hybrid vehicles.

Honestly.

Take pride in what you build, Chevrolet.  Let the car stand on its own merits.  The guys who bought “Like a Rock” trucks aren’t the market for the Volt, and you know it.  Don’t reassure people that it’s ‘still a car’ – let them bask in being on the cutting edge of technology.  Call it the next generation of hybrids, or the first true American electric car.  Revel in what you’ve done instead of apologizing for it.

Oh well.  At least they (apparently) used Belco for the webpage.  That’s something.  I don’t have another example to add to my Bad Font Interventions.

Why aren’t there any good Heinlein movies?

To many of us who grew up with SF, gaming, comics — in other words, us geeks — and especially those of us who now are raising our children with the same joys, the options today offer the penultimate paradise of entertainment:  Superhero movies are digging deeper into the pantheons of Marvel and DC.  (Jonah Hex, fer cryin’ out loud!)  There are something like nine major films based on Phillip K. Dick stories.  Wal-Mart and Target have exclusive versions of video games.  World of Warcraft has a higher population than several nations.

Add to that the ability that both Hollywood and directors have displayed in recent years: to get it right.  The Narnia films have the look and feel of that world nearly spot-on (even if the story details were changed).  The Lord of the Rings movies are and will be a high mark in literary cinema.  The Harry Potter series has faithfully reproduced everything from the Nimbus 3000 to Bott’s Beans.

So where are the Heinlein movies?

Television shows?  SyFy Channel miniseries, for crying out loud?  The father of modern hard SF, the creator of some of the most enduring ideas in science fiction, the first author to break out of the pulps and into “mainstream publishing,” and there has been virtually nothing made from his stories since the 1950’s.

There was The Puppet Masters in 1994.  There was Starship Troopers in 1997.  Then nothing.  (Ignore the sequels.  They exist only in the same parallel universe that allowed the filming of Highlander 2, 3, and -shudder- 4.)  Why haven’t they made film versions of “If This Goes On-“ (also known under Revolt in 2100), The Man Who Sold the Moon, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, Starman Jones, or dozens of others. Not to mention the Big One, Stranger in a Strange Land.  Explain to me how Life-Line couldn’t stand up on its own, even as a short film.

My guess is that Virginia Heinlein was so disappointed in the adaptations made out of Puppet Masters and Troopers that getting anything out of the master’s vaults and into the light is now just about impossible.  In both instances the characters, setting, dialogue – even the world of the story – were excised, almost completely.  Character names were retained, along with the one-sentence version of the plot.  Heinlein’s name was seemingly left on the films only to attract fans.

So now the rights to his stories are harder to find than a member of the Howard Families.  When EscapePod, the brilliant science fiction story podcast, wanted to celebrate their 200th episode with one of his lesser-known short stories, they were eventually able to get it released.  But it took a very long time; long enough that episode 200 was made available just after episode 206.

I’m not blaming the late Mrs. Heinlein, or the Heinlein estate, for this protective attitude.  With everything that R.A.H. believed in and worked for, to have one of his most-read books turned into the action/CGI/Vietnam “statement” that Paul Verhoeven made it was, to put it mildly, enragingly disappointing.  Imagine what Troopers could have been if he had only kept the powered armor of the mobile infantry.  Imagine what it could have been with the world around the story intact.  Think of Puppet Masters if key elements like a human colony on Venus and ground vehicles with airborne abilities had been retained.

Unbelievably, it seems that this logjam may be breaking loose.  The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag is reportedly in development, as is Have Spacesuit, Will Travel.  I sincerely hope that the rights-holders of Mr. Heinlein’s stories have learned to be cautious in what they sign over to screenwriters, and that Hollywood has learned that, when it comes to geeks, at least, holding true to the source material is the best way to make a fortune.