I Could/Couldn’t Care Less

Not that long ago I saw some grammar snobs get mad at the use of a phrase they believed was incorrect.  Tyler Wasieleski used the phrase “I could care less what you think” in a tweet and people tried to correct him.  They were saying the correct phrasing was “I couldn’t care less” instead.

They’re wrong.  Both forms of the phase make complete sense, one permutation is just less common than the other.  Of course, you can use the phrases incorrectly, but the only way you can be sure that it was incorrect is if you know the current situation and mindset of the speaker.

But what exactly do the two phrases mean?  Let’s quickly go over each one.

“I couldn’t care less.”

The more common of the two permutations of this phrase, “I couldn’t care less” is what most people think of and use.  It’s equivalent to saying that you don’t care at all.  That is, on the scale of caring, you are currently at zero and the scale of caring does not go lower than zero.

In common speech it is used to indicate no interest in what another person has to say.  It’s usually a brush off or a shut up.

Simple really.  As compared to…

“I could care less.”

This one takes a bit more thought to understand.  Let’s say you’re at a certain level of caring.  You could care a lot or a little, but you do care at least some.  What this phrase is saying is that your level of care could be lower.  On the scale of caring you are at one or higher, and it can still go down at least one notch.  It is currently here, but it could be here.

It’s harder to find this phrase in common speech, but one example of its use is as a minor threat.  For instance, if you give someone an opinion or critique, and they don’t take it seriously, you could respond with “I could care less”.  You’re tell them that you care, therefore you gave them a critique, but next time you might not care as much, and therefore won’t give any feedback at all.  It’s like saying, “keep this up and I won’t even bother with you.”

As you can see, two letters and an apostrophe can change the whole meaning of a phrase.  And contrary to what some people think, both permutations are correct if properly used.

Book Review: Voices from Chernobyl

Voices from Chernobyl written by Svetlana Alexievich and translated into English by Keith Gessen

On April 26, 1986, reactor 4 of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station exploded and caught fire, setting into motion one of the worst nuclear disasters in human history.  It’s been decades since the events of Chernobyl and the details of what happened that day are documented for all to read in history books.  However, what is harder to find is information on a more personal level about those who experienced the event first hand, and those who are still suffering from it.  That is what Voices from Chernobyl is about.

Voices from Chernobyl, written by Svetlana Alexievech and translated into English by Keith Gessen, is a compilation of monologues compiled from interviews conducted by Alexievech herself.  These monologues touch on an element missing from most literature written about Chernobyl.  That element is the human element.  It accounts everything from the government’s and people’s reactions to what was left behind in the now contaminated land around Chernobyl.

The book covers personal stories told by those who were actually there.  It is broken into three sections titled The Land of the Dead, The Land of the Living, and Amazed by Sadness.  Much of it can be hard to read at times, such as Lyudmilla Ignatenko watching her husband die from radiation sickness, but it is the horrendously sad stories that often need to be recorded the most.

And for each sad story accounted by an individual there is another that will help restore your faith in your fellow human beings.  For instance, Vasily Nesterenko, former director of the Institute for Nuclear Energy at the Belarussian Academy of Sciences, fought tooth and nail to try to convince his government to help protect its population from the radiation.  He didn’t stop until they dragged him to court and he had a heart attack.

What’s even more shocking is that for each of these stories of extreme hardship, there are many more about normalcy and how life continued to carry on in the face of such a huge disaster.  It is these numerous accounts that make you truly understand that the people who were involved with Chernobyl were just ordinary people, like you and me.  When reading history books, it’s hard to remember that.

You see, when historical events happen and are recorded into the history books to be taught to our children, something tends to be left behind.  Everything becomes factual, sterile.  Feelings, emotions, and personal experience falls to the wayside.  What’s so very sad is that these pieces of history, the personal human histories, are just as important as the cold hard facts.  What people went through on a personal level, as well as on a societal level, needs to be preserved.

And that’s what Voices from Chernobyl is about, the personal histories of Chernobyl.

Kim Harrison Books Are Like Self Torture Devices That Leave You Wanting More

Pale Demon by Kim Harrison

I mentioned a while back in my first blog post on this site that I was stuck on the book Pale Demon by Kim Harrison.  Whatever it was about that book, I just couldn’t bring myself to read it.  It was just so slow with nothing happening.  I found myself wishing I was done with it so I could move on.  Even going as far as to swear I would never read another Kim Harrison book ever again.

This past week, I was finally able to sit down and finish the darn thing.  To my surprise, the last quarter of the book totally and completely hooked me and never let go.  I even rescinded my threat to never read any more of her books.  I wanted more!

This made me realize something.  I don’t hate Kim Harrison books.  I hate the middle of Kim Harrison books, and Pale Demon showed this in a starker contrast than any of her other books that I have read.

Kim Harrison books always follow the same pattern.  They begin with a premise and drop a few tidbits to really intrigue you.  You get sucked in.  From there, the story flows into the middle section, where very little happens.  Plot points are few and far between.  Characters move around and interact, but these interactions usually have little consequence to anything grander than the immediate future.  The middle section is just there to shuffle all the characters into their places to prepare them for the conclusion.  It’s there to torture you, and just when you think you can’t take it anymore, the conclusion happens.  And the conclusion is always one major universe altering plot point after another, all in very quick succession.  It’s one big exciting plot explosion of enjoyment that’s there to leave you wanting more.

Pale Demon shows this very well.  It starts where the last book left off, reintroducing the fact the main character has to get to the west coast in time to meet a deadline.  Unexpectedly, she has to bring another unlikely character with her and protect them, and herself, along the way.  From this unexpected twist, we move into the middle section of the book where they drive across the country for two-thirds of the book.  During this drive across the country I can only think of one major plot point that happens (which I won’t go into detail about to avoid spoilers).  All they do is drive!  Once they make it to the west coast plot points happen in quick succession, forever changing the main character’s life in a multitude of ways.  By the end of it all, I was ready and willing to read the next book.

Essentially, for two-thirds of the book, nothing of interest happened.  However, the conclusion to the book was so good (with a cliffhanger nonetheless) that I am seriously thinking of reading the next book in the series soon.  I can’t help but think that this pattern equates to self inflicted torture.  Self inflicted torture that I keep coming back for.

The Universe of Battletech

I’ve talked before about world building, specifically within the universe of Tribes.  World building is extremely important and the more you work on the world that your characters inhabit, the better. While some world designers only go far enough in their world building to create what’s needed, others go well beyond the call of duty in order to created a rich, elaborate depth.  One very good example where this is the case is the universe of Battletech.

Two Mad Cat Battlemechs

For those that are unfamiliar with the tabletop game Battletech, here’s the basics.  In Battletech, you pit your army and wits against your opponent’s.  Like many tabletop games you move small models, called miniatures, around on a battlefield grid.  What sets Battletech apart from other war games is that your army consists of huge lumbering war machines called Battlemechs, or Mechs for short, piloted by MechWarriors.  These great monstrous machines are the ultimate combat unit, raining destruction in their wake in the form of lasers, long range missiles (LRMs), autocannons (ACs), and particle projection cannons (PPCs).

The creators of Battletech could have stopped at this point with the lore.  All you really need to know is that two sides are at war and they use Mechs to fight each other.  Thankfully, this doesn’t even come close to scratching the surface of the Battletech universe.  To start off, they have a deep history reaching back centuries before the era in which the tabletop game is set.  History about the migration away from terra, and the settling of other planets.  There’s a whole line of events about what has happened in the Inner Sphere, including all the factions, territories, and wars that have rages over the centuries.  Then, there’s the Clans, a group of MechWarriors who fractured away from the Star League, a doom alliance of the Inner Sphere houses, and created their own Clan order in a distant star system.  Later, the Clans would return in the Clan Invasion, or as the Clans called it Operation Revival.

All of this is still just scratching the surface and I’d need pages to go into any real depth.  There’s so much history and depth that Battletech has even spawned a series of Battletech novels, each one pulling from known Battletech history and adding more of its own.  Each of the rulebooks is also filled with short stories between their sections and if you want even more gritty details of the history there’s a whole series of Historicals that can be purchased and read.

The Battletech TechManual

While a historical background is fantastic, my favorite part of the Battletech universe is the technical information.  While the Total Warfare rulebook gives you a small taste of a few technical details, the real treat is the TechManual.  This book, while providing construction rules for the game itself, is filled with in universe descriptions of all the technology used by all sides.  From how Battlemechs operate to the operation of the various weaponry, it’s packed to the brim with lore for technology geeks like me.  As an added bonus, the Technical Readouts, which provide new units to play with, have information on the history and technical details of each unit they offer.

The Battletech universe tends to draw enthusiasts in and surround them with elaborate lore.  Thanks in part to this deep rich lore, the Battletech universe has managed to move beyond being just a tabletop game.  Everything from videogames to novels, to even an RPG, has come out of the universe that Battletech has created.  I can’t help but think that it can only get bigger.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to read the TechManual.