Fettle

Condition or fitness. Can be thought of as an analogue to mettle, but regarding functional rather than material qualities. Fettle is how something is made in contrast with mettle being what something is made from.

Found in the 25 January 2014 edition of The Economist.

The big question

What Is God?
Jacob Needleman

Many years ago in the midst of the results of some very poor choices, a friend exposed me to the Tao Te Ching. I read it in an evening, pondered over parts of it, and purchased my own copy the next afternoon. I purchased the Gia-fu Feng/Jane English translation at a store on Polk Street in San Francisco called Rooks and Becords, which sadly does not exist any longer. I recommend the coffeetable edition of this particular translation for its gorgeous photography, but the one I picked up that afternoon was a much smaller paperback.

Complete and utter

Complete. Or utter.

I came across this in the first paragraph of an old post and cringed. First, «complete and utter» seems redundant. Perhaps it isn’t always; the two words have somewhat different definitions if very similar usage. It’s possible that one would want to specify both that something is not only totally whatever attribute is being ascribed, but that attribute in the most extreme manner.

I’m having trouble coming up with an example of that hypothetical, which leads me all the more to my original conclusion: this phrase is almost certainly redundant.

Economists value life more than you do

Coins

Bryan Caplan’s 20 January post at EconLog presents an interesting question of the sort that is often overheard at parties and coffeehouses as an example of a question that ought not be asked. How do you put a value on a human life?

The question comes up after some judge or jury awards damages in a wrongful death suit, or some news item in nature both lurid and legalistic.

If you like getting the runaround, you can keep getting the runaround

Most Americans ought to be familiar with the recurring gag in the comic strip Peanuts in which every year Lucy offers to hold the football so that Charlie Brown can kick it. Each year, Charlie Brown complains that Lucy never acts in good faith and that she always pulls the ball away at the last minute, leaving poor Charlie Brown flat on his back after a flubbed kick attempt. Lucy invariably comes up with a compelling argument why Charlie Brown should trust her this time and Charlie Brown sees her logic and gives it a try. Predictably, he always winds up on his back.

Now and then, step outside social media's walls

RSS reader instead of Facebook

I don’t usually make New Year’s Resolutions for a variety of reasons. For more on the subject, see Resolution Evolution by Jason McClain. However, this year I have a somewhat different tack. I’m committing myself not to a set of specific pass/fail tasks (make it to the gym every day) but to a more general goal: reduce my use of social media sites as my conduit to blogs.

Two thousand fourteen

I’m not sad to say goodbye to 2013. There were some accomplishments, but also many difficulties that I would rather not have to revisit. Though many of the difficulties won’t magically disappear with the turning of a calendar’s page, the arrival of the new year nevertheless does seem to come with a sense that there could be a fresh start, that perhaps some of the previous year’s failures and disasters can be left behind.

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