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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Everyone Needs a Hobby

And mine of late has been salting slugs. These little, slimy %$@^%#$%$^%@ have just been destroying a dozen or so plants in my garden, so I've taken to going out at night with a flashlight and salt shaker, and gleefully watching them dissolve. I'm reminded of reading about the British philosopher F.H. Bradley, of whom, the piece in question said, while he never taught at Oxford, he did like to go about the campus at night and shoot cats.

18 comments:

  1. If you have runty slugs, you must not live in the Pacific Northwest!

    We used to do the same thing growing up (also used slug bait and laid out pie tins with beer that they would drown themselves in). Here in Tokyo we've got some good sized garden snails instead that much on my few garden plants.

    But if you will permit a small quibble, far from dissolving the little suckers you've simply been creating a situation where they can't maintain osmotic pressure - all their fluid migrates out to the salt, and they essentially dry up. Same thing with ham and bacon, but as far as I know, no one's yet taken to making slug bits for salads.

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  2. See definitions 3 & 4:

    "dis·solve (di zälv′, -zôlv′)

    transitive verb, intransitive verb -·solved′, -·solv′·ing

    1. to make or become liquid; liquefy; melt
    2. to merge with a liquid; pass or make pass into solution
    3. to break up; disunite; decompose; disintegrate
    4. to end by or as by breaking up; terminate"

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  3. Now there we have something qualified to teach that course: those slugs.

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  4. Tom,

    I'm surprised you didn't chastise Gene's statism. Clearly there is a property rights problem between him and the slugs.

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  5. Gene, of course when you salt a slug you do dissolve something; but isn't it the other way around? Seems to me you are using a slug's water to dissolve the salt, but your mileage may vary.

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  6. Bob, you're not going Silas on me, are you?

    ... chastise Gene's statism. Clearly there is a property rights problem between him and the slugs.

    Wow! I certain did try to think up some other clever commentary, but couldn't come up with a statist/property rights angle, so I decided not to add any more salt. But can you walk me through your angle?

    There certainly are interspecies property rights struggles (humans didn't create property, it's a behaviroal inheritance we share with other creatures), but unlike on Gene's Leiningen vs. the ants, I think Gene has this one nailed down - should he decide it worth the trouble/pleasure.

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  7. Tom,

    My "joke" was based on the fact that you and another unnamed yet dear friend always criticize me for not understanding that the market has ill-defined property rights. E.g. global warming stuff, and my commentary on the Komodo dragon.

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  8. "Gene, of course when you salt a slug you do dissolve something; but isn't it the other way around?"

    Tom, did you actually look at definitions 3 & 4 of dissolve, or did you simply ignore my post and re-post your original complaint?

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  9. Gene, as I said, it`s just a quibble. But as a technical matter, isn`t it pretty clear that it was the salt that was dissolved (1 and 2) and that 3 and 4 are just laymen`s descriptions for 1 and 2?

    As I said, YMMV.

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  10. Bob, actually I criticize you for understanding that there are problems with statism and ill-defined property rights, but not letting that understanding get in the way of your penchant for bashing enviros.

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  11. So, Tom, when someone says, "We dissolved our partnership," you think that's just a layman's description of the partnership "merging with a liquid"?

    Did I, or did I not, "break up," "terminate," and "disunite" the slugs? (You'll notice that these aren't really "lay versions" of the chemical definition -- salt does not "terminate" when dumped in water. And, certainly, the lay versions came first -- the chemical definition is "just" a specialized, technical narrowing of the lay version, and not the reverse!)

    Yes, Tom, if I had been writing a chemistry text, what I wrote would be incorrect. But, given it was not a chemistry text, it was a perfectly correct, standard use of English.

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  12. Gene, the word literally means to use a solution to break something down. While 3 and 4 are perfectly good lay uses (which I still consider as metaphorical derivatives of 1 and 2 - like "dissolving the bonds of matrimony" - but I supposee you could be right as to what came first), they still seem like a stretch to me in this case; your slugs were terminated, but not broken up.

    My own preference, when describing a physical process, is to avoid using a lay term whose scientific meaning is the opposite.

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  13. "Gene, the word literally means to use a solution to break something down. While 3 and 4 are perfectly good lay uses (which I still consider as metaphorical derivatives of 1 and 2..."

    OK, you've finally forced me to my OED, where I find you are wrong on both counts.

    1) The "literal" meaning is from the Latin 'solvere', to loosen. The word 'solution, in fact, post-dates the word dissolve. (First use 1390.)

    The first instanced uses of 'dissolve' are from Chaucer (1374), who used it to mean 'to release from life... to cause to vanish or disappear..."

    So, in fact, the chemical use is derivative of defs. 3 & 4.

    I know this is a big fuss about a little matter, but I find it annoying when someone goes out of their way to "correct" something that's already perfectly fine.

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  14. Oh, and just a quibble -- you meant "use a solvent" -- not a "solution" -- to break something down, I believe. But that only makes matters worse for your etymology -- the word 'solvent' does not appear on the scene until 1653, over 300 years too late to have formed the basis of the "literal" meaning of dissolve.

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  15. I bow before your OED skills and sit corrected.

    Still, it`s clear that the technical and lay meanings are at odds in this case. Sorry, but my old chem and bio classes are coming through, coupled with the fact that I did my slug salting much younger, when I was fascinated to watch and ponder what happened.

    Anyway, happy hunting!

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  16. Mighty gentlemanly of you Tom, no offense taken and all, you know.

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