Tuesday, March 15, 2011

On how technological advances affect expressions and a peerless cocktail

Moore’s law describes the long term trend in computer hardware where the number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years. While this trend is currently slowing down, it has remained relatively consistent for the past sixty years. Although Intel co-founder Gordon Moore was originally writing1 about transistors, this phenomenon applies to processing speed, hard drive capacity, server capacity, and the overall capabilities of many digital devices.

We experience this “law” in everyday life and price this into our decision making3. Last year’s model although state of the art at the time of purchase is now, for lack of a worse word passé. Every year the maximum processing speed or hard drive space increases and pushes down the price of what was previously the top model.

And now that we have some shared context, let us get down to the crux of this article.

I very much like expressions. I would self-describe myself as someone who has a fair number of personal expressions, sayings, expressive hand-motions, diction, and who has a general tone of voice. This is all greatly accentuated if I am telling a story, a yarn, or even recounting a flimflam4.

Four days ago at approximately forty minutes past noon I was taking my lunch in Madison Square Park, enjoying the welcomed nice weather and Shack Burger. I happily divided my time between reading, drawing, and being pensive in thought. My thoughts tend to be jumbled, convoluted, and alternate between the rather complex and thoughts that simply are not getting their due time and attention and are at risk of being classified as unimportant by many.

In some way or the other I started thinking about the phrase:

“Nothing to write home about”

I have certainly used this phrase5; the last time being in regard to an un-eventful lamb burger. The expression would be used to describe something not particularly exciting, nor special, or was not newsworthy. According to the Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings the expression in its current form dates back to the late nineteenth century citing; “he was bleeding a bit, but nothing to write home about. G.D.H. Cole, "The Man from the River." There is also a foot note mentioning that this expression gained favor among WWI troops stationed far from home.

While the surface level purpose of the expression has remained constant, the underlying connotation of what constitutes “something to write home about” certainly has not. Over time the marginal cost and barrier to convey news has exponentially diminished. The extraordinary number of technological outlets that spring everyday allows me to express any opinion with increasing speed. The barrier to write home is so low that nearly everything can be written home about at virtually no cost other than the time based opportunity cost. The wounded soldier who was bleeding in the initial citation would have no doubt tweeted home if the technology was available. The type of news that would eclipse the “Writing Home Threshold” from a WWI foxhole is quite different than what the threshold is today. I speculate that in the 1890s you diligently thought about when you would write home and if the information would in fact be timely by the time it arrived. Late hours into the night, scotch in hand and peering out the window from that space you stand when you are thinking, would be devoted to evaluating if this news is in fact something to write home about. The drink in hand would probably be something like this:

The Peerless Martini:

  • One cap full of dry vermouth
  • 3oz of Plymouth gin
  • Ice
  • 2 dashes of orange bitters

Remove your martini glass from your bar. Fill the cap of the vermouth bottle with dry vermouth (this should be approximately 1/7th of an oz). Swirl around the vermouth coating the inside of the glass. Pour the excess vermouth into a shaker filled 3/4th of the way with fresh ice. Pour the 3oz of gin plus that additional extra ounce if it has been a long day or a day ending in “y”. Vigorously shake for approximately 28 seconds. Strain and pour into the glass. Take a generous twist of lemon and twist over the martini releasing some of the natural oil; run over the rim of the glass and place on top. Add two dashes of orange bitters and stir.

The orange bitters takes a perfect drink and truly makes it peerless.


1Moore’s original thoughts can be found in the April 19th, 1965 issue of Electronics Magazine in a piece entitled “Cramming2 more components onto integrated circuits.”

2Excellent diction in the usage of “cramming”

3I have another conceptual idea about how activity based peak performance will effect pricing of personal computers for the next 10 years. Conceptually Moore’s law is also slowing down because the demand for capability utilization on some electronic will be significantly less. The marginal difference between yearly models will diminish.

4I was surprised flimflam was one word in the OED

5You are probably thinking about when you did right now

No comments: