San Juan Mountains

San Juan Mountains
San Juan Mountains: Grenadier Range

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Ten-Cubed Rule

I am not positive but I believe it is possible I might have come up with an original idea.  I know that there is nothing new under the sun but every once in a while some brilliant people come up with a way to repackage an old idea and it sounds new.  I think I might have stumbled upon such an occurrence, although I hesitate to pronounce myself brilliant as a result.  So let me tell you about my idea and you can decide for yourself.
One of the things I have noticed over the years is how horribly inefficient human communication is.  It is not that human communication must be inefficient.  It does not have to be that way because most of the impediments to accurately conveying an idea from one head to another are not found in the objective world.  The things that keep people from understanding each other are to be found in the subjective realities in regard to each individual and each individual's ability to comprehend.  For example, one of the Welsh rules of human inter-personal communication is that all people exclusively think and talk about themselves.   This is not a difficult rule to see in operation.  Simply listen to anything that passes for a human conversation for more than a couple of minutes and you will see the truth of this rule in action.  The air may be filled with words but the people engaged in the communication are really carrying on a conversation only with themselves, not with each other.  Each sentence is an "I" statement designed to tell the other person how great I am.  The person speaking with me interrupts to give me his "I" statement while I am thinking about the next "I" statement to make.  Quite naturally I do not hear him but, if I am a gifted conversationalist, I will nod my head in such as way to convey to him the idea that I have actually paid attention to what he said.  Also rather naturally I fail to notice that my conversation partner is not paying any attention to what I am saying since I am so absorbed in what great thing I am next going to tell him about myself.  It is easy to see how this sort of conversation conveys no meaningful information at all.
After a day of speaking with other people last week I was reconsidering the Welsh rule and how faithfully I had executed it throughout the many conversations I had had that day.  As I was thinking about the rule something else occurred to me.  Even if people are making valiant efforts to behave counter to the Welsh rule of inter-personal communication it is still almost impossible to ever accurately convey an idea from one human head to another.  As I considered it it seemed to me that there are three insurmountable barriers to all human communication.  I put those three barriers together to form what I call the Ten-Cubed Rule of human communication.
Without further ado, here is the Mad Welshman's Ten-Cubed Rule:  "All people only hear 10% of what I say; and all people only understand 10% of what they hear; and all people only care about 10% of what they understand.  The net result is that only .1% of what I say is ever heard, understood and valued by the people with whom I speak."  There are several corollaries that are associated with the Ten-Cubed rule.  Here are a couple of them:
Corollary # 1:  If I want people to understand what I am trying to say, even in the best of circumstances I am going to have to repeat myself one thousand times prior to expecting a successful transmission of my idea.  Conversely, people are going to have to hear something one thousand times before they understand what is being said.
Corollary # 2:  The best of circumstances rarely, if ever, occurs (see the original "Welsh rule") so effective communication between human beings where one person accurately conveys a valuable idea successfully to another human being almost never takes place.
Corollary # 3:  Most of the time, unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise, it is best to keep my mouth shut and simply listen to what everyone else has to say.  If I listen long enough I might actually learn something.
Applying the Ten-Cubed Rule and its various corollaries can occasionally create some socially awkward situations.  I say "occasionally" because most of the time, due to the original Welsh rule, the person who is talking to me never notices that I am not speaking back.  Most of the time, at least in my experience, I am deemed an expert conversationalist when I have, in fact, never uttered a single word.  On those rare occasions when the person talking to me actually realizes what is taking place a brief, but awkward, silence usually takes place.  It is that moment I realize I have been found out.  I am actually listening and the other person knows it.  That is extremely uncomfortable for most people so I will usually make a quick "I" statement to get the non-stop stream of consciousness pouring out of the other person's mouth to start up again.  Most of the time that technique works, but sometimes it does not.
When my "I" statement fails to get the other person started I realize something unique is taking place.  It is then I realize this could be one of those one in a thousand opportunities for an idea to pass from one human head to another.  When I become aware of that special situation I will make a bold and daring move and ask a question of my fellow conversationalist about something he has said.  We have now come to the critical junction in the process of communication.  How he responds to the question will determine everything from that point forward.  As expected, most of the time he will quickly answer the question with a barrage of "I" statements and we will never return to that moment again.  But sometimes things do not go as expected.
Sometimes the person with whom I am speaking will answer my question and then, to my shock and surprise, follow it up with a question for me.  This rare and magical moment is almost unknown in human inter-personal communication.  When it happens I always want to stop and savor the moment, but I can't because if I don't say something the moment will pass, likely to never return again.  So I will offer an answer and then follow that up with another question for him.  If this is indeed one of those one in ten thousand moments a conversation will ensue in which we each talk about ourselves and each other, thereby learning new things and passing back and forth ideas we value.  If this goes on for very long a new state of affairs develops.  When this process takes place repeatedly over time something happens that very few human beings ever experience...a friendship forms.
Most people live their entire lives without ever having a real friend.  That is because of the truth of the Welsh rule and the principle of Ten-Cubed and its corollaries.  I only bring these things up because if you ever want to have a true friend you might want to consider the things I have written.  But then again, the Ten-Cubed rule practically guarantees I will have to write this at least one thousand times to get through to you and I am not about to do that.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

My First Ticket

Almost two months have passed since it happened.  Or, to be more precise, almost two months have passed since I did it.  I hate it when people speak of bad things that they do in the passive voice.  Have you ever noticed that?  People don't speak about the good things they do in the passive voice.  No, those descriptions are always in the active voice and in the first person.  "I helped an old woman across the street," folks will say.  But when somebody gets murdered it is always "Sometimes murder happens when you are around." Go figure.
I strive to fess up to my sins.  Notice that I did not call my sins, "mistakes."  That is another thing I hate.  When people sin against others they inevitably call the sin nothing but a mistake.  A mistake is when I arrive home late at night after having too much Welsh beer and drive through my garage door without raising it.  A sin is drinking too much Welsh beer in the first place.  I don't see why that distinction is so hard for people to understand but apparently it is.  Everybody makes mistakes but nobody, apparently except me, ever sins.
As I was saying, something happened to me about two months ago that was a colossal mistake.  I received my first speeding ticket.  I realize that getting a speeding ticket for most people is a regular occurrence.  But that is not the case for me.  I have been sinfully puffed up with pride over the fact that I have been able to drive the roads of the Socialist Democracy of Amerika for 42 years without getting a ticket for speeding.  The primary reason for that is I rarely speed.  That is because I am rarely in a hurry.  I am not a Type A, obsessive-compulsive Yuppie.  I find going fast to be frightening so I prefer to take things a bit slower that other folks.
Knowing that most people do not share my appreciation for slowness, I have offered the same bet to every teenager I have known for the past 20 years.  I bet that the teenager, shortly after getting his driver's license,  will get a speeding ticket before I do.  Wise teenagers pass up the bet.  Less wise teenagers take the bet.  Less wise teenagers have paid me a lot of money over the years.  Last month I had to put my money where my mouth was.  I had to pay a wise teenager $50.  I didn't like that one bit.  I made a resolution to never let that mistake happen to me again.
Now you might think that a person who has driven like an old lady since he was 16 years old not getting a speeding ticket is not big deal.  But you need to realize that I drive a lot.  One car that I owned had 357,000 miles on it when I sold it.  Another car, a 98 Subaru Impreza, had 454,000 miles on it when I gave it to Goodwill.  My business has me on the road a lot.  I have to drive from building to building in order to clean up the messes of others.  I have lots of contracts all around the state of Colorado so I have been on the road an average of 30,000 miles/year for many decades.  And still I had never received a ticket for speeding, until May 15th.  Then everything changed.
My wife and I were driving westbound on US Hwy 160, in southern Colorado.  It was late Sunday evening and we were bound for Santa Fe where we were going to meet up with my brother for a couple of days of golf.  There was almost no traffic on the road and it was a beautiful evening.  We were coming down from La Veta pass and I was paying no attention to how fast we were going.  I noticed we were coming up on a car, rather quickly given the fact that I was going 77 in a 65 zone, when I also noticed that the car was a cop car.  The next thing I knew the cop pulled off the road to the right to allow me to pass.  I knew I was caught.  He pulled back onto the road after I passed and soon the red lights were flashing.  Nailed!
The cop approached the car and asked for the usual items.  He then informed me that he had me clocked at 77 in a 65 zone.  I asked him how in the world he knew that given the fact that he was in front of me when I caught up to him.  It was then I learned that modern police cars are equipped with "rear-view radar" that does not require him to be hiding behind a tree somewhere to catch me.  He then asked me if there were any reasons for my speeding and I, despite being able to come up with dozens of justifications for what I was doing, informed him that there were none.  He went back to his car and soon returned with a ticket for $176.  Ouch!  I had no idea that a mere 12 mph over the limit could cost so much.
It was then that it struck me.  Actually, I had thought about it before but this was the first time I was able to implement my plan.  So I did it.  I asked the cop to pose with me for a picture of him giving me the ticket and me shaking his hand as the first man to issue me a speeding ticket in 42 years.  Cops, being the joyless and stoic creatures that they are, are not prone to engage in such shenanigans.  But this fellow, a younger version and perhaps not as jaded as his compatriots, obliged me.  My wife snapped the shot on her phone:


Notice how happy the officer is.  I had to blur my face to maintain my anonymity but, trust me, I was smiling too.
After returning from our short trip I grabbed the ticket from my briefcase.  Several things struck me as interesting.  The fine was paid to the Colorado Department of Revenue, the exact same folks I pay my estimated state income tax to.  I guess a speeding ticket goes into the same pot as the state income taxes do. I found that depressing.  It seems like that policy sets up a bunch of perverse incentives for the state government to fleece me of my cash.  As I quickly learned, that was true.
I also had to pay two surcharges in addition to the fine for speeding.  One of them was a hefty fee to cover some of the costs of people rehabilitating in Colorado hospitals who suffered head injuries in car crashes.  Now that seemed a bit unfair to me.  Why should I be forced to pay for their injuries, which were likely caused by a combination of driving drunk or driving under the influence of a personal electronic device, whereas they did not have to cover any of my fine for speeding?  I am sure some career politician in the Colorado statehouse cooked up that law.  She will probably get a plaque when she retires informing her of how many lives she saved as a result of forcing me to pay other people's hospital bills.
It was an interesting experience but I don't think I will do it again.  Although I enjoyed meeting the officer (despite the fact that he was wearing jack-boots, as the photograph above shows, he was not a jack-booted thug) and it was a pleasant stop along the side of the road in a beautiful part of southern Colorado, the idea of paying more in taxes to the career politicians and bureaucrats who rule over me is just more than I can stand.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Andrew Hamilton: Did He Have Any Fun?

Type A, obsessive-compulsive people mystify me.  Living, as I do these days, among thousands of Yuppies I find myself continually surrounded by these fire-breathing go-getters.  Anything that can possibly be conceived of to do is turned into some sort of extreme competition by the OC types.  Well, almost anything.  Being OC about not being OC never happens.  Being OC about being relaxed and enjoying life at a slow pace never happens.  And being OC about smelling the roses is always verboten.
I opened my morning paper today to be greeted by a front page story entitled "High Speed Trek."  The story details the efforts of a fellow by the name of Andrew Hamilton who is endeavoring to establish a new speed record for ascending and descending the 58 Colorado fourteen thousand foot peaks, known collectively as the 14ers.  According to the report, if everything goes as planned Hamilton should be running down Long's Peak as I am typing these words.  If things do go as planned he will crush the old speed record by climbing all the 14ers in less than 10 days.  Good for him.
Hamilton has an entire team of support personnel who are aiding him in his quixotic quest.  He is shuttled from trailhead to trailhead in a van driven by other people.  While in the van he is given massages and fed specially designed foods.  He sleeps when he can, apparently having developed the ability to sleep while walking, just like a zombie.  Many of the peaks find him accompanied by another hiker/climber who is apparently there to make sure he does not walk off a cliff while sleep-hiking his way to the top.  Thousands of fans of this sort of thing are following along via electronic media, anxiously awaiting news that he has established a new speed record.  Good for him if he does.
In an interview prior to embarking upon this project Hamilton described himself as a "ridiculously slow" climber.  According to him, his success is not based upon the fact that he is unusually fast but the fact that he is able to climb for days on end without any rest.  As he put it, he has developed the ability to suffer at a level unknown to most human beings.  Hallucinations are accepted as a part of the journey.  Physical exhaustion on a scale unknown to most human beings is the norm.  Those who have seen him in recent days describe him as a hollow-faced zombie that is just a mere shell of a human being but who, nevertheless, never stops walking towards his goal.  Good for him.
Many of the summits he attains are attained in total darkness.  Even those summits that he reaches during daylight hours pass by unnoticed as he plods along in his trance-like state of mind and body.  The summer monsoon has descended upon Colorado the past few days so Hamilton has also found himself hiking and climbing in rainy conditions.  He crossed the infamous and exciting "knife edge" on Capitol peak in total darkness and in the rain.  The wildflowers are coming out in their annual resplendent glory but I doubt Andrew has noticed them.  He did manage to climb a good portion of the Sawatch range 14ers in a single day however.  Good for him.
Hamilton's obsessive-compulsive nature has been gifted to his children as well.  They claim having climbed all of the 14ers by very tender ages.  The story described how before reaching their teenage years both of his children had accomplished the "grand slam."  They talked about how proud they are of their accomplishment but neither of them said anything about how beautiful the mountains are.  Instead, they informed the reporter that they had already told their dad that they want to climb all of Colorado's 13ers in the next couple of years.  There are over 600 of them.  Good for them.
These OC activities seem to be universally praised by those in the media and the small group of mountaineers in Colorado who attempt them.  Everyone seems to be excited by what Hamilton is doing, except me.  I feel sorry for him.  I feel sorry for his kids.  I feel sorry for everyone who thinks that what he is doing is some sort of amazing accomplishment.  It disturbs me that such freakish acts of obsession make the front page of the newspaper.  It bothers me that many in society see obsessive-compulsive activities as some sort of major achievement to be praised by all of the rest of us mere mortals.  The glorification of OC behavior, whether it be on the mountain tops of Colorado or in the corporate boardroom, is a sign of seriously unstable personal character and massive insecurity in my opinion.  Making a concerted effort to become a zombie in order to accomplish a meaningless goal is not a sign of advanced moral character or personal development in my world.  To me the entire thing reeks of self-protection and the desire to flee from reality.  So I suspect by the time I finish this post Andrew will have accomplished his goal.  But, I wonder, did he have any fun?

Update July 16, 2015:
I  read a story this morning on the front page of my newspaper about a fellow who just completed the Appalachian Trail in a new record time, under 47 days.  The story was about how much he suffered during the 47 days he spent on the trail.  He was described as being a mere shell of a man, like someone who had just seen six consecutive months of  combat in WWII.   The author of the story said the man was inspirational.  I don't know about you but I don't aspire to look or feel like an Auschwitz survivor.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Whole Foods Caught With Unjust Scales

Last week a group of career bureaucrats responsible for checking the accuracy of the declared weight of packaged foods discovered that Whole Foods had "been systematically overcharging customers in a number of its stores" because the announced weight of the food was higher than the actual weight.  Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, a prominent Libertarian and proponent of freedom, issued an immediately apology and assured Whole Foods customers that it would never happen again.  The whole thing seemed like a simple mistake and not an evil attempt on the part of a profit seeking corporation to cheat the public.
Stephen Mihm, of Bloomberg View, wrote a scathing piece which was published in the Denver Post last week accusing Whole Foods of "resurrecting the thumb-on-the-scale trick."  I was unaware of this trick but Mihm assured me that "honest weights and measures are the norm these days -- hence the dismay and outrage at Whole Foods. But for most of US history, getting cheated at the grocery counter was as American as apple pie."  For a man writing for a pro-business institution, Mihm does not have much sympathy for profit seeking businesses. 
Mihm tells the story, allegedly historicaly accurate, of how almost all profit seeking grocers in the former United States would cheat their customers on a regular basis.  Then a beneficent, omniscient and omnipotent government came along and fixed everything.  He told me that "it wasn't until the early 20th century that things changed."  What changed in the 20th century, according to Mihm?  He writes, "a willingness to use the power of the state to ameliorate the excesses of unfettered capitalism."
Oh how I despise the phrase "unfettered capitalism."  Unfettered capitalism, as the phrase is always used, means a free market that is regulated by the desires and actions of the consumers alone.  Worshipers of government and government regulations are terrified by the idea of an economic state in which government is not observing and regulating every single transaction.  Those who bow down at the throne of government regulation cannot conceive of the possibility that consumers can regulate their own purchases better than bureaucrats.  In their view of the world all consumers are mindless sheep in desperate need of a government shepherd to protect them from the evil capitalists who are in reality doing nothing more than producing goods and services for prices the consumers are willing to pay.
Does it follow that all profit seeking businesses always operate with complete perfection and absolute moral purity?  Of course not.  Men are men and men are sinful.  There will be businessmen who try to cheat and steal.  But who is better qualified to punish the cheaters:  an army of highly paid career bureaucrats or consumers who tell their friends and neighbors not to shop at a particular store because the shop owner attempts to cheat them?  I think we all know the answer to that question.  Unless you are a career bureaucrat, in which case I would never expect you to see the world in a clear economic light, you understand that sovereign consumers can bring about the desired changes when grocers try to cheat.
Mihm concludes by proudly declaring that "regulators continue to sniff out dishonest packaging, short weights, and other frauds -- just as they did when they announced their findings against Whole Foods in recent days."  Praise the regulators!  Praise the government!  Praise career bureaucrats and career politicians!  How did we ever survive without them?   Still.....something is bothering me.  There is an idea in my head that I just can't get out.  I have a question for Mr. Mihm.  Mr. Mihm, if government regulators are our protectors and work tirelessly to ensure that we all live in a world with honest weights and measures, could you please explain the graph, found below, to me?



Mr. Mihm, being the economic genius that he is, probably does not understand the above graph.  Let me tell you what it is.  The graph shown above illustrates the rate of increase in the supply of money in the Socialist Democracy of Amerika since 1980.  More precisely, it shows the rate of increase for each year when compared to the prior year.  For example, the supply of money in the SDA increased by around 10% between 2012 and 2013.  Or, the supply of money increased by about 3% between 1995 and 1996.  Notice that the supply of money has never decreased.  In other words, the supply of money in this immoral country has increased by something between .1% and 13% every year since 1980.
Do you understand the significance of the information shown in the graph?  Honest weights and measures would insist that the value of the dollar not change.  Each day, each month, each year the value of the dollar should be one dollar.  To decrease the value of a dollar and not inform those who are using dollars for their daily economic transactions is an act of deceit and theft.  What you see above is called inflation and inflation is an unjust change in the value of a dollar.  The practice of inflation is the practice of deceitful weights and measures.  When the dollar decreases in value every single day everyone who uses dollars has a small amount of money stolen from him.  Now just who do you think is doing the stealing?
You guessed it!  The federal government, by means of the central bank, is robbing you every single day by using counterfeit dollars that decrease the value of the dollars already in circulation.  Where are the regulators?  Where are the career bureaucrats who should be rushing in and checking the value of the dollar every day?  Where are the reports about the outrage of the citizenry over the fact that they have been cheated by their own government on a daily basis?  Where is the praise for the brave men and women who expose their thievery?  The answer to all of those questions is the same.  There is no criticism of the government because the government is god.  There is never ending criticism of profit seeking businesses because men are filled with sinful envy.  When Whole Foods makes an honest mistake they are crucified for their error. When the federal government robs its citizens on a daily basis it is praised and thanked.  What do you call that if not an act of worship?