As far as I know, Battlestar Galactica (the original one) was the origin of the word “frack” (replacing another well-known f-word). In the recent remake, it became “frak” (a more typical four-letter word). The use of frak in the show was never excessive (like the frakin’ use of the frakin’ f-word in a frakin’ lot of frakin’ places, for frak’s sake) which was fine. Understandably, people need an expletive at times (like getting shot, or finding out that your wife – or you, for that matter – is/are a cylon). Sometimes, “well, gosh” just doesn’t cut it. So far so good.

Making this about a million times better, though, is the use of “frak” becoming more common outside the show. Just this week, characters on The Big Bang Theory and Criminal Minds used “frak” as it was intended to be used – to express shock/surprise/disgust at ongoing events in the show.

This is great for a couple of reasons:

  1. No need to offend the easily offended. “Frak” doesn’t refer to any body parts, bodily functions, sexual activity, or excretions (the main source of “swears”). So, there’s nothing to complain about. It’s just a made-up word that has been given “swear” status.
  2. Since “frak” is being used in the present, because of its use being demonstrated in the future, this provides an excellent example of time travel. Also, it explains where the word came from in Battlestar Galactica – they learned it from us.

Just kidding about that last one. Still, I think that reason #1 is legitimate. There have been any number of people who have written about the lack of “common courtesy” or politeness in today’s society (citing some people’s complete lack of awareness of the difference between public and private space, for example). I think we could use a few additional new expletives which would allow for the function of swearing without the additional rudeness. I’m accepting suggestions.

Unskilled and unaware of it

While doing my undergrad at Dal, I read an article called “Unskilled and unaware of it“. The article blew my mind at the time, and the authors have come out with several updates in response to criticism and further debate. Well worth following up! The jist of the article is the idea that someone who isn’t very good at doing something is unable to accurately assess their abilities in that area. For example, if your skills at writing English aren’t any good, you are unable to say with any accuracy whether a piece of your own writing (or anyone else’s writing) is any good.

Seems like a fairly obvious statement, but I (and probably you) frequently encounter people who don’t think this applies to them. An easy example is the student who can’t produce a coherent sentence,  but can’t understand why their mark is so low. They, of course, really do not see the problems with their own writing – they don’t have the skills necessary to assess their own work accurately.

The second element of this failure to assess accurately (and I don’t remember if this was brought up in the original article – I’ve certainly seen it elsewhere) is the tendency everyone has to assess themselves inaccurately. Many people, in today’s culture of rampant narcissism, regularly assess themselves higher than they should (witness the never-ending cavalcade of  untalented people who are willing to make fools of themselves exhibiting their non-talent on TV talent shows). Others assess themselves more harshly than they should, for whatever reason. There is a host of studies that show large groups of people, on average, assess themselves as being above average (sometimes called the Lake Wobegon effect, after Garrison Keillor’s fictional town). On the whole, it seems, it is pretty rare for one to be able to take a clear look at one’s own abilities, talents, and so forth.

This is important, in the end, for one simple reason. It is impossible to teach anyone anything until they realize that they have a need to learn. When your default assessment of yourself is that you can handle whatever comes your way, that you know it all (or enough), that whatever you don’t know can’t be that important anyway, you are not likely to pay too much attention to anyone telling you how to do something new. After all, you already know everything you need to … don’t you?

Well, I had to post something, didn’t I?

OK, so I’m moving from a “normal” website (whatever that is) to a blog format. I had just been updating my resume now and then anyway, and I’d been thinking about doing some blogging, so it seemed like the time. I can’t imagine anything the world desperately needs less than a blog, but I’m helpless in the face of the cultural gestalt. Possibly, unlikely as it is, I’ll actually enjoy this. Even less likely, maybe somebody else will as well.

If not, at least I’ll provide yet another forum for some useless spam comments and trackbacks. I live to serve.

Eventually, I’ll include some of the work I’ve done in PHP and MySQL, for those who haven’t made it over some of the hurdles I’ve managed to claw my way past over the years. If, as seems quite likely, that it’s only my Mom keeping up with this, just ignore that stuff. Maybe there’ll be something chatty about Castle.

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