Thursday, April 3, 2014

That word

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

Communication is an important part of interacting with other people. Clear communication is essential to harmony between people. What's more frustrating, trying to get information from someone who doesn't speak the same language you do, or trying to talk to someone who speaks the same language but has different definitions for some of those words?

Here is an example of one of the words that is commonly used to “impart null information” or evade telling the truth without outright lying.


“I threw it away” or “He went away” may be complete sentences, but they don't give you much information. Where is “away”? The use of this word is common and its prevalence is partly due to lazy speech habits. It's easier to say “I threw it away” than it is to say “I threw it out the window of my moving car”, and it also lets the speaker avoid any possible judgment of their actions, especially after the news reports of wildfires.

This is one of my pet peeves, because I learned a long time ago that there is no place called “away”. Everything has to go somewhere, and until you start to think about that as a factor in your decision making, you're going to make thing worse than they need to be.

We all use the bathroom from time to time; that's a part of being alive. Do you know where the contents of the toilet go when you flush it? If you live in a city, you'll probably be hooked up to a sewage system that carries it through a system of pipes and pumps to a treatment facility, where it is processed to be safe to dump into a nearby body of water. If you're situated on sloping ground, there may be fewer pumps involved, but they're still in the system. What happens when the pumps stop and people keep flushing their toilets? Did you know that your floor drains are hooked to the same pipes as your toilets? Are you downhill from very many houses? Gravity will insist upon delivering all of their waste to or at least through your place. You are “away” as far as they're concerned, and I doubt they'll care when your basement floods with sewage. Conversely, are you ready to deal with downhill neighbors that are literally tired of putting up with your crap?

Colonel Cooper's 4th rule of gun safety is to know your target and what lies beyond it. The bullet that misses a target doesn't just “go away”, it will keep traveling for at least a mile unless it hits something or someone. Even the low-powered .22LR will send its bullets up to a mile before gravity brings them back to earth. I have made it a point to make sure that everyone I have taught to shoot understands and accepts the fact that they are responsible for everything that comes out of their guns. That include the brass or shotgun hull that gets ejected after they shoot. Since I reload my ammunition, leaving brass at the range is a horrible waste of money. I will even pick up brass in calibers that I don't shoot, just to use as trade goods at the gun shows to give to friends who use that caliber.

Ash and Trash

A long time ago I was a member of a Reserve Military Intelligence unit (see my fallow blog for some of the things I have shared about that) A large part of our mission was to train other units in areas like prisoner handling and the laws of land warfare. My job was rather simple, so I hung out with the CI (Counter Intelligence) guys. They were happy to have an extra set of hands and eyes, so they taught me a few tricks. One of their favorite teaching methods was to do an “ash and trash” on the location that a unit had moved out of. Finding their trash pit, we were able to gather a lot of information on the unit and its behavior. Think of it as "forensic dumpster diving". You don't have to be Colombo to be able to figure out some basic information from all of the things that people throw in the trash. If you find bloody bandages, you know someone is bleeding- duh.

As a corollary to the ash and trash, think about what other people have thrown “away” or has been left behind after the hurricane/tornado/bombing run is over. Several of the “survival” shows on TV make a point of using the bits and pieces found laying on the ground or on the shore. Volunteer to do a roadside clean-up some weekend and you'll be amazed at how much gets tossed out of car windows or lost from the back of a pickup. Living in a state that has a container deposit law (5 cents per can or bottle), we have folks that make their cigarette money by picking up cans from the roadside. Bags, buckets, coolers, clothes, you name it and it's probably in a road ditch somewhere near you. I recall spending three days cleaning the shoreline of a lake at a local park one year after the 4th of July weekend - clothes, fishing gear, water toys, and of course tons of beer cans were all carried out by the truckload.

In general, be more aware of what's around you and know how you're going to dispose of trash and waste before it becomes a problem. Keep your eyes open for things that others have discarded, you may find something of use. There is no place called “away”; everything has to end up somewhere.

Oh, and if I every see you toss a dirty diaper anywhere other than in a trashcan, we will have words. Some things make impressions that stick for life!

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