Redundancy Surfeit

Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: & / Personal / Stories / By Age / Broke Writer /

The woman at the car agency told me to record “the VIN number” on some form.
“The VIN number?” I echoed somewhat stupidly. (The stupid part was my enduringly optimistic hope that I could actually make a point to this cretin: you see, VIN is bureaucratic gobbledygook for “Vehicle Identification Number.” Literally interpreted she wanted me to write down the vehicle identification numbernumber.

2002-GM-Truck-Vin-Decoder pic evaporated

Now, the vehicle has a number: the VIN. I know that. Was she telling me that the VIN itself had a number? A number of the number? Which number did she want?

It’s possible; but it doesn’t strike me as probable: a number’s number is a sophisticated idea, not commonly heard even among math geeks. What did that have to do with a car agency? with a bureaucratic procedure?

She had no idea what I was talking about. She had no idea that her extra step at clarity, specifying “number” when the acronym had already specified the idea “number”: like a serial number: has to do with commerce, with markets, with record keeping; nothing at all to do with mathematics.
To me, VIN already meant number; to her, VIN didn’t mean anything at all: so she had to add meaning to it.

Of course I knew what she meant, she wanted the VIN; but she said she wanted the VIN number.

For decades that had been my favorite example of illiterate redundancy: ignorance overloading the semantics. But now, the cumulative idiocies of the computer world have shoved idiocy to new levels. I tell the new Mac to empty the trash. My Mac asks me if I’m sure I want to empty the trash. That would be bad enough. But now the new OS X comes with a Chess app that’s a step toward computer chess that I actually might enjoy. In the seventies I had chess computers that scared the wits out of me until I realized that I could beat the shit out of them if I just kept going. By the eighties I had chess apps for DOS that I could fine tune to play at 1600, 1650, 1700, 1750 … I might have to think a little bit, I’d probably win, rarely would the app simply clobber me at those settings. Anyway, the new Mac Chess: I turn it on, it shows me a board, I’m White. Good. And I can play via the mouse: press the cursor on the E2 pawn and push (drag) it to E4: and in a couple of seconds it will push its E7 pawn to E6 (or E5). But no. First the Mac gives me a dialogue window: what do I want to do? Cancel? Quit? or Start?

Of course I want to start! Why else would have I loaded the program?!
What, please, does this clarification clarify?

Imagine Nixon with his finger on the red button. And the red button asks him if he’s sure!
Now that’s a stupidity that would actually be smart! But I’ll bet the Pentagon’s button would have assumed digested qualified intention on the part of the occupant of the White House.

Imagine going to Toshin Sushi House, ordering sushi: the sushi chef sharpens his knife, and asks if you’re sure. What does he think you might want in a sushi house? roast beef?

That car agency was in Philly: Dodge dealers. I was writing my third novel, wanted to see my son, rented a room in the Main Line ‘burbs. The agency wasn’t interested in efficient communications, didn’t want to know about redundancy, didn’t want their sloppy habits analyzed. Just what my Dark Beacon was about!

Once upon a time, in OS 7.5 I think, I could toggle the Empty the Trash command between Empty It and Ask If I’m Sure: after all, I don’t want to trow away my great American novel, inadvertently. OS X learned from my previous Preferences; but the new new new OS X don’t know nothin about nothin.

A Number of the Number
That’s a Gregory Bateson joke. I wish more than one person would get it. I wish one person would get it.
Should I illustrate? Let’s say that I grew up at 206 North Forest Avenue. (I did.) 206 North Forest Avenue was on the west side of the street, midway between Lakeview and Locust in Rockville Centre. Moving there at age three, it was the second house I lived in. So: I could say that 206 was my second house number: one number of “206” was 2. Let’s say that the mail man shoved the mail through the slot of my house fiftieth in that morning’s trek: someone mapping the mailman could designate my 206 North Forest Avenue as number #50. The tax man could give all the houses in the neighborhood numbers: those assessed at over six figures, those assessed … otherwise. There’s no ready limit to how many numbers my “206” could have.

How’s this: God is the One god. God, the One God, is one of a Trinity: that one is three. … Under name X he’s the first such god, under name Y he’s the 10,000th such god …

Stories Stories by Age Stories by Theme

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
This entry was posted in language, writer and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s