“Stereotype” by another name

I was listening to this great Planet Money interview of a lady who lives in Dubai. She notes that it is such a conglomerate of cultures that inevitable stereotyping goes on in order to handle the multiplicities of cultures.

She used a great phrase for “stereotyping.” She said “productive generalizations.” That is unusual and a fascinating use of words.

Word of the Day

So while ready a fun article on Merleau-Ponty, the French philospher, I came across the word “orthogonal.” So I decided I would use my unrivaled powers of deduction to tease out the meaning of this word. “Ortho” is root for . . . I’m thinking “orthodontist” so maybe “straight”? or “orthodox” which is correct or straight. Then there’s the “-gonal” part which I could not figure out. Anyway, my interpretation of “orthogonal” was “straight.” So I decided that the orthogonal ideas in question were directly related per my reading of the word.

Not satisfied with this, I then checked the dictionary and I had a “What the . . .” moment. All 5 or 6 meanings were completely mathematical and there was no clear sense of what it meant in regular parlance. I then asked my mother in law who is a mathematician and she did not know either. So we go on the internet and finally get the sense that it means that if two things are orthogonal that means that they have no correlation or that they are mutually exclusive.

Well then, it turns out then, that the ideas in question in this article were mutually exclusive and not directly related like I thought. BTW the root words involved are “ortho” and “gonia” which means angle (I apologize to Greek enthusiasts who will point out that I am missing the diacritical marks).

So there it is, the word of the day, “orthogonal.”

Star Wars Joiner King

 I just read Star Wars The Joiner King by Troy Denning, so on to the next in the Dark Nest series called the Unseen Queen. First I’m not sure why Hans Solo is featured on the cover of this book being that it is not primarily about him. It is a good story and well written. I did not have any issues with the book and it eventually did prove to be one of those can’t-put-down books.

Sometimes I think the Star Wars writers have too much of the callous silly movie style in mind, such as sly witty remarks, never any real sense of danger as well as the characters never display the magnitude of risk or danger endemic in what they do. Actually, with Han Solo, Denning does well in doing away with any silly invincibleness with him, but it’s Mara Jade and Luke that get pretty annoying.

There is always something disturbing about sentient insects and so the story has that going for it. One problem I have with some Star Wars writers is that they get so technical and descriptive that I have no idea what they are talking about or in many cases I simply cannot visualize the situation. I imagine they have a couple of goals, one to meet the standards of the Star Wars brand, Lucas, et al, thus they have to show a well researched product. On the other hand, they should do focus groups with regular readers like myself and see if we can decipher what’s going on. In a light saber duel or space ship duel, after, three pages of stuff, I have no clue what just happened and I’m basically scanning to see who won. The technical expertise is impressive but still the point of writing is to communicate.

One interesting idea Denning explores in this book is the whole conscious versus unconscious personality. The idea was that all living things have a conscious personality that is influenced by an unconscious personality. In the case of the Killik, an insect species, their unconscious personality becomes inbued with the dark side of the force and causes all kinds of trouble. It is interesting because they present both personalities as distinct, discrete and independent–thus you can be evil but not aware of the root of the evil influence or in the case of the Killik, not even able to acknowledge the darkness because you are not conscious of it.