January 6, 2012

"Time is your total capital, and the minutes of your life are painfully few."

"If you allow yourself to fall into the vice of agreeing to [requests for just a few minutes of your time], they quickly snowball to the point where these parasites will use up 100 percent of your time — and squawk for more!"

ADDED: That quote — from Robert Heinlein (via Instapundit) — contains an atrocious mixed metaphor. First, time is analogized to money — "your total capital" — and then demands for it "snowball" — and here we've got an image not just of snow, but of getting larger and larger by rolling downhill. This increasingly large ball of snow somehow reaches a point where suddenly it's parasites — some sort of bacteria or fungi? — and they're consuming... well, I guess all that money. Having eaten all your money, these parasites "squawk for more" — they have powers of speech. What kind of parasites squawk? Maybe some animation in a TV commercial for an athlete's foot remedy. It's possible! But what happened to all the snow?

See, this is why I can't read science fiction.

72 comments:

Tim said...

One class distinction in America hinges on this point. Some people value their money more than their time; others their time more than their money. Ironically, the wealthier one is (it seems to me), the more one values one's time.

traditionalguy said...

Physical Death is the ultimate boundary to the usefulness of money.

And losing one's good health diminishes the value of the money earlier.

EMD said...

I really need to stop reading blogs. My time is too valuable.

Tim said...

EMD said...

"I really need to stop reading blogs. My time is too valuable."

+1

Kit said...

The "good" selfishness - take care of yourself first, so that you can be more useful to others when it's needed.

Rose said...

OMG. This is an omen. I really, really need to take this advice to heart.

Clyde said...

There should be a Robert Heinlein tag, too.

He was one of my favorite SF writers when I was growing up, and his stories contained a lot of good advice about the virtues of self-reliance.

Pogo said...

Here's what happens when the State demands you give away advice below cost, and even some for free.

Doctors going broke
"Doctors in America are harboring an embarrassing secret: Many of them are going broke.
...including family physicians, cardiologists and oncologists.

Half of all doctors in the nation operate a private practice. So if a cash crunch forces the death of an independent practice, it robs a community of a vital health care resource.

Doctors list shrinking insurance reimbursements, changing regulations, rising business and drug costs among the factors preventing them from keeping their practices afloat. But some experts counter that doctors' lack of business acumen is also to blame.
"

"Some experts" can give away their advice for free, I guess.

The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades.

Scott M said...

"Be rude when necessary"

Rob Heinlein.

EDH said...

Psychiatric Help: 5 cents.

The Doctor is [OUT]

LordSomber said...

This is the basic concept of no-spec dot com.

Dose of Sanity said...

This sounds pretty selfish to me, without some context.

DADvocate said...

Sigh. And, I spend time here arguing with garage.

DADvocate said...

This sounds pretty selfish to me, without some context.

Of course, how selfish to spend your life doing what you decide is best. It's worse than those guys who think they should spend their money as they see fit rather than give it all to the government. Everyone should be a servant to society.

Carol said...

It seems like everyone I know has gotten so they don't want to commit to any time-eating activity. In the 2008 election, trying to get volunteers was impossible.

Amd I'm the same way now. I don't want to do anything at all, except vege out, surf the net, play music maybe, and view any requests with deep suspicion. That goes not only for paid or unpaid work, but also parties, picnics, things that are supposed to be fun. Unless the very cleverest and fun people are going to be there.

It used to be long ago that people were more open to such things. They were more bored, or something.

m stone said...

Depends on what you do with your time other than interacting with fellow species in the natural art of conversation.

Methadras said...

I have no problem sharing ideas with people. After all it's what I do for a living, but if you are going to call me and ask me questions about coming up with ideas or designs and expect it to be free, then my answer to you is my hourly rate. Defensive pricing has it's purposes.

rocketeer67 said...

This sounds pretty selfish to me, without some context.

Dose, does the final bit of the entire quote help?

(This rule does not mean that you must not do a favor for a friend, or even a stranger. But let the choice be yours. Don’t do it because it is “expected” of you.)

edutcher said...

If someone wants to pick my brain, I should have the right to pick the brain doing the picking.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

My brain costs money to maintain. There’s training, classes to attend, reading (I have to buy books), gaining certifications, costs of memberships so I can network, attending conferences and mastering my skills that all cost me money.

I have to protect my investment. How fair is it to me to give away all the knowledge I have acquired that I use to make my living, pay my bills and eat?


AMEN !!!

This was one of my biggest peeves when I was in business as a Financial Advisor/Stock Broker.

People wanted to just plop into my office, sit at my desk and try to get free information. OR....at a cocktail party get me to discuss their financial situations and give advice on inheritance, stocks ...whatever.

Not that don't mind trying to occasionally help out or give some information, BUT this was my livelihood. How I made a living.

The costs of licensing, continuing education, personal time spent keeping up on the tax laws and investigating various investments, all add up. The cost of my E&O insurance, office lease, equipment, furniture and so on.

It always amazed me that people thought that the were ENTTITLED to my time and 'pick my brain' for free.

Pastafarian said...

Bear in mind that time is money, because we all trade these precious minutes of our time for salary.

So when the government takes more of my money to redistribute to someone else, it's really taking minutes of my life away, to give to someone else. Minutes that I could have spent playing with my children, I instead have to spend at work, in order to make the extra money they've extracted under threat of imprisonment.

Then they take these finitely allotted minutes and they give them to their political allies, who do with them whatever they want. Taxation isn't just slavery; it's incremental mass-murder and cannibalism.

Way to get us stoked for the weekend, Althouse. What a Debbie Downer.

Gabriel Hanna said...

Finally a real quote on the Internet. Getting tired of the bogus Steinbeck one.

Robert A. Heinlein, for better or worse, had a lot of influence on my mental development.

Christian said...

I can't help but read that quote and think of the following as it relates to how we use our time capital:

"A new commandment I give unto you. That you love one another As I have loved you."

For someone not religious, it's might not have much meaning, but you can't help but think everything on the "new commandment" hinges not just on "love" but on "as I have loved you".

This man called Jesus appeared to spend all of his time and even all of us life until death, in what he believed with the service of others. No doubt, mostly with those who he considered pure in heart, whatever you make of that.

Whas it a life well spent or was it wasted on parasites? Generally, I fully agree with the concept that our time is really the ultimate property we have and we should wisely use it accordingly.

glenn said...

Your Loss

Rabel said...

Aside from the Heinlein quote, I'm having trouble seeing how the lady who wrote this:

"Go Ahead, Talk to Strangers- The Modern Girl’s Guide to Fearless Networking, written by Adrienne Graham, gives you the foundations needed to become a fearless networker. This is a practical guide that inspires women to actively build relationships and take “who they know” and turn it into a competitive advantage."

also wrote this:

"No, You Can't Pick My Brain. It Costs Too Much"

Just seems like "Screw you. Pay up if you want to talk" doesn't mesh well with promoting a networking environment.

Maybe it's a female-bodied thing.

Perezoso said...

Lying about having a broker's license (like series 7--for stockbrokers')--actually a crime.Not that that's likely to stop the Annie oakley and Nixon-haus

MikeR said...

Huh? I call foul.

"Time is your total capital, and the minutes of your life are painfully few. If you allow yourself to fall into the vice of agreeing to [requests for just a few minutes of your time], they quickly snowball to the point where these parasites will use up 100 percent of your time — and squawk for more!"

Time is money. Requests (for time) snowball. People (who make those requests) are parasites. I deny that Heinlein was using a metaphor, mixed or otherwise.

MikeR said...

Anyhow, don't complain - fix it!

"Time is your total pile of snow, and the minutes of your life melt away painfully quickly. If you allow yourself to fall into the vice of helping to shovel, they quickly snowball to the point where the popsicles will take up 100 percent of your freezer space — and stick for more! Just chill."

Better.

wef said...

One man's atrocious mixed metaphor is another man's attention-getting way of hammering a point home.

Pontification: Precision through metaphor. The more precision you want, the more metaphors you use. The more you use, the more likely they are to start to scrape against each other. The more they scrape, the more time it takes to round their edges and fit them together harmoniously. And so there is a kind of Heisenberg principle at work here: you can have either your precision quickly with atrocious mixing of metaphors, or your precision slowly with an elegant structure of well-balanced and congruent metaphors.

Ann Althouse said...

"Time is money. Requests (for time) snowball. People (who make those requests) are parasites. I deny that Heinlein was using a metaphor, mixed or otherwise."

This is the place where I tell you to read (or reread) Orwell's "Politics and the English" language and pay attention to the part about dead metaphors.

Yes, of course, he wasn't "using a metaphor" if you mean conscious of his deployment of images. But that's bad writing. If he'd been consciously doing metaphor, he'd never have done that.

Ann Althouse said...

"Time is money. Requests (for time) snowball. People (who make those requests) are parasites. I deny that Heinlein was using a metaphor, mixed or otherwise."

This is the place where I tell you to read (or reread) Orwell's "Politics and the English Language" and pay attention to the part about dead metaphors.

Yes, of course, he wasn't "using a metaphor" if you mean conscious of his deployment of images. But that's bad writing. If he'd been consciously doing metaphor, he'd never have done that.

Ann Althouse said...

"Dying metaphors. A newly invented metaphor assists thought by evoking a visual image, while on the other hand a metaphor which is technically "dead" (e.g. iron resolution) has in effect reverted to being an ordinary word and can generally be used without loss of vividness. But in between these two classes there is a huge dump of worn-out metaphors which have lost all evocative power and are merely used because they save people the trouble of inventing phrases for themselves. Examples are: Ring the changes on, take up the cudgel for, toe the line, ride roughshod over, stand shoulder to shoulder with, play into the hands of, no axe to grind, grist to the mill, fishing in troubled waters, on the order of the day, Achilles' heel, swan song, hotbed. Many of these are used without knowledge of their meaning (what is a "rift," for instance?), and incompatible metaphors are frequently mixed, a sure sign that the writer is not interested in what he is saying. Some metaphors now current have been twisted out of their original meaning withouth those who use them even being aware of the fact. For example, toe the line is sometimes written as tow the line. Another example is the hammer and the anvil, now always used with the implication that the anvil gets the worst of it. In real life it is always the anvil that breaks the hammer, never the other way about: a writer who stopped to think what he was saying would avoid perverting the original phrase."

rocketeer67 said...

Yes, of course, he wasn't "using a metaphor" if you mean conscious of his deployment of images. But that's bad writing. If he'd been consciously doing metaphor, he'd never have done that.

Perhaps it's simply pedantic reading?

Rod said...

How about this:
Capital is *wealth*. Money is merely the way -- one of them -- that wealth is measured. Lifespan is another.

Fred Drinkwater said...

THAT'S not a mixed metaphor. THIS is a mixed metaphor:
(Gordon Baxter, in response to his magazine's publisher's edict banning cliches):

"I congratulate you for having the courage of a lion to set foot in those shark-infested waters where the hand of man has never trod before."

(Well, maybe it's mixed cliches. But it's really WELL mixed.)

MikeR said...

Ann I've read that Orwell piece before, and enjoyed it, but my reaction is the same as the last time I saw it: Most of us human beings can't be expected to worry about Orwell's lofty standards. It's just not obvious to me that using his "dying metaphors" is such a bad thing, and anyhow I'm too tired to spend time looking for ones he likes, or deciding whether a given metaphor is "dying" or acceptably "dead".

Perhaps I just lack his (and your) sense of touch.

Patrick said...

Are mixed metaphors bad?

I find pro football less appealing because of the movement penalties.

Jose_K said...

First, time is analogized to money so what? Time is money
Here we say :time is gold and even saints cry over lost time.
It is not a metaphor but a common place

Physical Death is the ultimate boundary to the usefulness of money. Nobody knows since nobody has came back to tell.
have you see the Taj Mahal? the real one I mean.Only money can buy such a place for eternity
Money is useful after death, ask your future heirs...
And money does buy health. the richests countries in the world are also those with more life expectancy

So when the government takes more of my money to redistribute to someone else... in fact you work for the government until may.From then on it is your money

Jose_K said...

Ironically, the wealthier one is (it seems to me), the more one values one's time.. whre is the irony? It you make 10$ a minute a minut cost you 10$. if you earn minimum wage an hour wasted worht 7 $

Revenant said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Revenant said...

First, time is analogized to money — "your total capital"

"Capital" does not mean "money". It means "wealth". This is not a metaphor, it is a statement that your life is all the wealth you've really got. Other wealth derives from it.

The use of "parasites" is also not a metaphor:

Parasite, 2. a person who receives support, advantage, or the like, from another or others without giving any useful or proper return

Salamandyr said...

You can't read science fiction because you didn't like the way a writer wrote something completely unrelated to science fiction?

Alex said...

See, this is why I can't read science fiction.

See, this is why I can't respect Ann Althouse for making silly generalizations.

John Burgess said...

There's an Arabic word for 'parasite' that is also the word for 'relative, relation'. Perhaps this help unmix the metaphore.

Smilin' Jack said...

That quote — from Robert Heinlein (via Instapundit) — contains an atrocious mixed metaphor.

Bullshit. The metaphors are: time=capital, demands=snow, requesters=parasites. No mixed metaphors. Also, brood parasites (e.g. cuckoos) squawk.

See, this is why I can't read science fiction.

Obviously Heinlein is above your reading comprehension level, but I'm sure you could find something suitable, maybe in the children's section.

John Lynch said...

It's not science fiction, it's Robert A. Heinlein.

And what EMD said... it's true.

Revenant said...

The quote is from one of Heinlein's novels (Time Enough for Love), and is spoken by a (thinly disguised author surrogate) character therein. So it is both Heinlein and Science Fiction.

Synova said...

I have trouble seeing those as metaphors. I suppose that, technically, they are, except for "capital". But they are also common colloquial usages.

Some people really can't read science fiction, though. But not because of some failing (as implied) in the authors ability. There is a real conceptual step that must be made while reading that allows the "world" of the story to exist in potential and then be revealed only bit by bit.

My theory is that some people are compelled to map the story to the world from word one. If you don't have the world map before you start, you can't do that.

Some (in my opinion, badly written) "urban fantasy" or science thrillers, add the strange to the existing world map as they go, sometimes only late in the book introducing the odd or strange. My reaction to that is usually, "You lied to me!"

Synova said...

Also... not saying "urban fantasy" is bad, just that some particularly bad novels exist where (as a non-random example) a perfectly ordinary world is given mermaids three quarters of the way through.

DADvocate said...

See, this is why I can't read science fiction.

Obama used mixed metaphors and you voted for him. "greem behind the ears" - who would vote for a man who said that?

DADvocate said...

"green" that is.

wv - extime: time spent with you ex.

caseym54 said...

Go read "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress" to see what Heinlein was all about. Easily his best book.

Synova said...

Heinlein is considered the guru (or father or whatever) of the specific-to-science-fiction method of introducing the world in bits and hints as the story progresses. He's the author of the classic "the door dilated".

So it probably is all Heinlein's fault... but not because of his use of metaphors.

LordSomber said...

Y'all are arguing about metaphors like a bunch of unemployed English majors.

Badger said...

Time! Time! What is time? The Swiss manufacture it. The French hoard it. Italians want it. Americans say it is money. Hindus say it does not exist. Do you know what I say? I say time is a crook. – spoken by O'Hara (played by Peter Lorre) in Beat the Devil

Freeman Hunt said...

Heh. People in uproar over insulting Heinlein.

Maybe I'll keep my opinion of Asimov's Foundation to myself.

SeanF said...

Speaking of confusion, Ann--your Orwell quote includes the parenthetical "(what is a 'rift,' for instance?)," and yet the word "rift" does not appear anywhere else in your quote.

This is the second time I've seen someone use that Orwell quote, and the second time I've noticed it.

I can only assume that Orwell used a "rift" metaphor at some point before he began talking about dead metaphors, but if you're not going to include that in your quote, you shouldn't include the parenthetical, either.

It's just confusing. :)

Beldar said...

Our host wrote, "See, this is why I can't read science fiction."

But that's awfully thin evidence for a sweeping conclusion, and a prioritization that values consistency over fresh ideas. You might benefit from reading more science fiction, Professor Althouse.

sydney said...

I can't read science fiction, either, but I enjoy watching it. I suspect I have an imagination disability. I have trouble imagining a science fiction world, and only enjoy it when the visuals have been filtered through someone else's better imagination.

Dave in Tucson said...

But what happened to all the snow?

v. snow·balled, snow·ball·ing, snow·balls
v.intr.
1. To grow rapidly in significance, importance, or size

Literal snow not required.

Wendy Kloiber said...

quoting Orwell? That dystopian science fiction writer? Odd to quote a giant in the field to bolster your argument that writers of scifi are worthless!

Joan said...

I wonder how worn out those expressions were when Heinlein wrote them. A quick search shows TEfL was published in 1973; Orwell's essay, which Ann cites, predates it by some 27 years - but I'm not buying her objections, either. Using "snowball" as a verb and calling demanding individuals parasites is colorful and descriptive language, a far way from "toeing the line" or the other dying (not soon enough) metaphors referenced.

Then again, I've a foolishly soft spot in my heart for RAH, since I had so much fun reading his novels as a teenager. ITA that The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is his best work, from which I learned never to underestimate the destructive power of a sufficiently large rock thrown (or dropped) a sufficiently long distance.

KJE said...

Heinlien wrote some good books, but he also wrote some drek.

For every Moon is a Harsh Mistress, you have Number of the Beast. I tried Number of the Beast 3 separate times, and just had to abandon it. I couldn't justify my time on that particular parasite.

bagoh20 said...

There is nothing wrong with mixed metaphors. Continuing to maintain just one distracts and reminds the reader of the metaphor process rather than the point trying to be communicated. I say mix em all you want. Being distracted like this is a sickness, and you should not be spreading it to others.

SDN said...

Ann, you simply demonstrate your ignorance of economics: your time is precisely equivalent to money, because you have to use time to earn money. Whatever of it you spend answering questions, blogging, complying with ridiculous government regulations, or earning money that the government steals is turning over a portion of your life to whoever demands it.

This is precisely why government regulations / taxes are slavery, and why I call Democrats Copperheads. They've always been pro-slavery; changing "plantation" to "collective" doesn't change that FACT.

wv: forit. "Free tar and feathers given to politicians? I'm forit."

Bruce Hayden said...

I guess that this is the reason that I was a math major instead of an English major. I enjoyed the language there without getting bogged down in the formalities. And, note, that real people do mix metaphors, etc., and while forcing characters to avoid such may be better form, it may, at the same time, reduce their believability.

I have been reading the genre for at least 45 years now, and have read thousands of titles (and own the bulk of them). I was surprised to discover that I was reading more, in terms of pages and books, than English majors, when I was in college. But, I was reading for escape and for the sort of mind expanding thought that science fiction does best. I assume that the English majors were reading so slowly so that they could learn to make the sort of criticism that Ann makes here.

Looking back, science fiction complemented my math major fairly well - in both, you could say "let's pretend", and then see what happens. (I am talking upper level, abstract, math classes here, not the Calculus, etc. classes with which you typically start your college education).

As for Heinlein, I read his "juvenile" fiction in junior high, and maybe into high school. I moved on after that, but then "Stranger in a Strange Land" came out and was popular when I was in college. New agey type stuff.

Then, years later, I went back and read some of his stuff that I had read earlier, and realized that much of it was not as "juvenile" as I thought at the time. Reread "Starship Troopers" a couple of months ago, for the umpteenth time, and enjoyed it anew. And, yes, the book is much better than the movie.

Bruce Hayden said...

Some people really can't read science fiction, though. But not because of some failing (as implied) in the authors ability. There is a real conceptual step that must be made while reading that allows the "world" of the story to exist in potential and then be revealed only bit by bit.

My theory is that some people are compelled to map the story to the world from word one. If you don't have the world map before you start, you can't do that.

Some (in my opinion, badly written) "urban fantasy" or science thrillers, add the strange to the existing world map as they go, sometimes only late in the book introducing the odd or strange. My reaction to that is usually, "You lied to me!"


I think that you have some good points here.

For me, the leap to believability is easier the more fictional the environment. Or, something like that. I have an easier time suspending disbelief when a book is set in the far future, than when it is set in the here and now, and something evil is lurking just under the surface.

Which is why I bemoan that the sci-fi/fantasy section of bookstores are filling up with the Twilight type modern fantasies. Worse - a number of authors I have enjoyed in the past have switched over to this new sub-genre.

Part of the problem is that I am always analyzing plausibility. So, when I see 100 lb women running around on TV, beating up (much larger) bad guys, with their long hair down, and low cut tops showing a lot of cleavage, I get distracted by the implausibility of the whole thing.

I find it much easier to accept that in hundreds, if not thousands, of years in the future, that man may indeed discover some way around the speed of light, or manage to figure out how to make robots self-aware, meet with other races, etc. Much easier to accept for me than that we have vampires (or other paranormal beings) living in our midsts.

wv: ending - some authors do them well, and some do not. And, yes, science fiction may be worse than many other genres here.

ken in sc said...

I think this comes from the book in which an old man's brain was transplanted into a young woman's body. He/she then had sex with men he/she used to admire but would not approach as a man. Heinlein's books were full of sex, especially group sex.

ken in sc said...

'Stranger in a Strange Land' came out in two versions. The first version had much of the sex taken out. Later on, his books were not edited so tightly.

J said...

[Different J]

Yes, Ann, we recognize interesting uses of the English language hurt your brain.

Charlie Martin said...

You cope with the atrocities of legal writing and you quibble at that?

Freeman Hunt said...

I thought about it for the last couple days before posting this:

That woman's advice is terrible. This based on experience.