Riker's Mailbox

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Wow, never has my behavior on this blog been so counter to typical. Usually I promise to keep writing regularly, then fall off the horse*. This time, I excuse myself from writing, and end up posting prolifically. I should learn my lesson and stop trying to predict my future contributory habits.

So, what was I going to talk about?

Oh yeah. PhysOrg. This is a great website that harvests online news items of a generally scientific nature and herds them into categories like space/earth science, technology, health/medicine, doomsday devices, and physics**.

Anyway, there was one article that was pretty interesting in and of itself: In a nutshell, it strives to explain how ancient humans, despite lacking massive muscles and fangs/claws, began to add meat to their diets long before the advent of hunting weapons. Essentially, it states that while humans aren't commonly thought of as athletic in the animal world, as compared to powerful gorillas or fast cheetas, for example, we are the best endurance runners on the planet. No other animal willfully runs extended distances like we do for sport or for exercise. While other animals can run much faster, they can only do so over short distances. Humans, however, have developed springy tendons to store rebound energy and also the ability to dump the massive amounts of heat generated during running by being relatively hairless, sweating profusely, and breathing through the mouth. We could run animals to the point of exhaustion/hyperthermia, and dispatch them easily after they collapsed.

Like I said, this was interesting in and of itself, but it's not why I wanted to share it today. This article also contained one of the most unabashedly boneheaded 'smart quotes' I've ever read:

"Humans are terrible athletes in terms of power and speed, but we’re phenomenal at slow and steady. We’re the tortoises of the animal kingdom," Lieberman said.



Maybe they're the leprechauns of the plant kingdom. That'd make a comparable amount of sense.

Few things are more entertaining to me than the intelligent person who gets distracted by elevated concepts to the point that he flies right over the basic ones (like context and literality; common sense fits in there too). Of course, I am as guilty as anyone, and I'm probably not that intelligent***.

(For the full text of the article: http://www.physorg.com/news95954919.html )

* - So this scriptwriting hiatus isn't exactly falling off the horse... but it's putting crisco on the saddle.
** - Chalk it up to faulty memory.
*** - but I sure keep myself entertained.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


I know, I said I wasn't going to do this while I'm in the middle of scriptwriting, but I had to get this out on electron-excited phosphors*.

Time again for Semantical Paradoxy with Riker:


There's a word we needed, right up until it existed.

Yes, it is completely logical and expected over the course of the development of a language to come up with a word that means 'incapable of being expressed in words'. It's just that once that word exists, nothing is ineffable. All you have to do is call it ineffable and you're done. It's weird, because the word is simultaneously necessary and meaningless. If you don't have a word for indescribable things, then they remain indescribable. Once you have a word for them, they no longer exist within the category of indescribable, so what good is the word?

It's a word that has validity purely by needing to be defined in the first place, yet at the same time its validity renders it logically false. It is both valid, and invalid by the sake of its validity. WHAT????

As an afterthought, This is why I believe the English language is the best suited to writing poetry. Opera can keep Italian for its phonetically pleasing aspects and Asian languages can keep their discrete-symbol-for-every-little-thing precision, but the fact of the matter is that English just has so many words, and I'm pretty sure it's the only language that has more exceptions to its rules than it has rules. This leaves a tremendous amount of leeway to be clever with the palette of words available.

Let's say something is ineffable due to its rarity or its beauty. The best way to describe such a thing is to use a novel and insightful combination of words and language techniques which, when taken as a whole, are as beautiful and/or as rare themselves as the thing being described. It is obviously easier to achieve this when you have an unending supply of obscure, interesting, and confounding elements**.

* - or LCDs. My monitor at work happens to be a CRT. Plus 'electron-excited phosphors' sounds WAY cooler.
** - Admit it, that's English in a nutshell.

Monday, April 09, 2007


Hello hello!

I've made mention a couple times now of this essay I'm writing. I'm very proud of it. But it's not coming yet.

You see, I've been tapped by a good buddy and aspiring filmmaker to write a screenplay for a short film about espionage.

Seriously, who doesn't like spy movies? AND I GET TO MAKE ONE?? Sign me up twice! What this means is, however, that all my creative energies have to go into this script. So no more work on the essay for a while.

Rest assured, I'll certainly be posting the script once it's finished.

So, yeah... I felt the need to announce the justification for not writing here for a little bit... which is weird, since in the past I've had no compunction with just leaving for months at a time without the slightest hint or excuse. Oh well, new leaf.