There's an obligation I have, which I sometimes forget.
I forget that I'm quite good at certain particular things, and that this can make people feel defensive. And (perhaps unconsciously) anxious to demonstrate that they're better at their
particular field than I am -- which of course they are -- particularly when I wander into range of their particular quills.
Occasionally it comes up that I'm good at math and good at science and good at game theory and good at software and reasonable
at dealing with people and at analyzing literature, and this winds up being combined with the huge turgid throbbing caltech education that somehow I manage to conversationally dangle out of an inadvertently unzipped verbal fly and make it look like it was done on purpose. I can say -- and mean -- "No, that's not true", and people will hear "anyone who disagrees with me is obviously an ignorant and worthless human being with whom I'm barely tolerating sharing this planet of mine".
I know I do it. It's hard to avoid rhetorical overeffectiveness like it's hard to sing out of tune once you have a trained voice. It's like playing pianissimo bagpipes. I type loud.
Part of it, really, is that huge throbbing Tech thing. You spend three or four or five or nine years there, you get arrogant about problems having solutions because you get really
good at finding them. And you're surrounded by people just as good at problem-solving, who know they're just as good, and who are terribly awfully blunt with each other and say what they mean and call each other morons for not seeing it, and stay friends. And you get used to thinking and talking and acting and expecting that way.
Two of my uncles are ex-Marines. They really did use expletives like commas. My family reunions were howlingly loud and unpleasant. But they all loved each other. Same kind of thing. I remember Flit
saying it -- over a decade ago -- we techers are like ex-marines, in the way we all think the same and act the same and finish each other's sentences and tactlessly insult each other horribly and not even notice, and give the impression of being really scarily good at what we do (which is 99% projecting attitude).
But I've got it worse than most, I think. Part of that is familial destiny. Apart from those marines, there are seven ministers or religious instructors related to me as closely as grandparent or cousin. Most of the rest who aren't engineers are teachers.
Someday perhaps this particular talent will come in handy. If I had thought of it fifteen years ago and didn't want a life or a conscience, I could have gone into law. Or if my stock options lottery numbers had come up, I coulda gone into politics. (Still could, if I hit the jackpot, though I'm sure the concept would rightly horrify Sherilyn.
Or if only I were of some fire-and-brimstone religion -- man, I'd be good. You'd all be going to hell if you didn't follow me, and you'd know it the second I opened my mouth.
But I'm not. So instead I GM, where rhetoric appears to be a good thing.