Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Demon: Thy name is Chaos

Image from Lee Reich's gardening blog
Remus over at The Woodpile Report #512 informs us that many liberals now claim that "Future Orientation" is racist.  This is not a surprise as "math", "statistics" and "compound interest" are also considered racist.

That presents a quandary:  Math, statistics, and Future Orientation are tools that are absolutely necessary for success.  The obvious conclusion is that success is racist.

I want to prod about and look at some less obvious conclusions.

Future Orientation
Gardening is a great way to become a competent planner.  Gardening forces you to think about time differently.  You have to work backwards.

You start with the goal.  Suppose you want to harvest green beans to serve with sweet corn in mid-August.  The package says that the beans are "pole beans", that they mature in 60 days and that they require warm soil to germinate.

The gardener, working backwards, realizes that "matures in 60 days" is often optimistic and refers to just the very first ripe green bean.  The gardener also realizes that he might get two weeks of picking from his beans.

He is likely to scattergun his solution.  That is, he will plant seeds 60 days, 67 days, 74 days and 81 days before his hoped-for harvest.  That would be June 16, June 9, June 2 and May 26 respectively.  That means that he should be out in the garden in early May with his rototiller.

He also needs poles which must be cut in advance.

"Why not just plant bush beans?" the reader asks.

Again, the gardener is planning ahead.  His youngest kid graduates from high school this year.  And the gardener is getting a bit big around the middle.  He would rather pick beans standing up.  See, he is thinking ahead.

How long do you think the gardener would continue gardening if hooligans vandalized his garden at seemingly random intervals?  What if the production was purloined in the middle of the night? How long?

Not very long.  There is too much emotional investment.

Therein lies one of the root-causes of the planner/non-planner divide.

Cultures that are run by "planners" are intolerant of people who steal and intolerant of people who generate chaos.  The thieves and disruptors are pushed to the margins where they can do less damage.

Cultures that are not run by planners are tolerant of disruptive people.  They even celebrate them...think "rappers".  These cultures often encourage disruption because disruption draws more resources.

Chaos vs coherence 

Consider the simplest of examples:  The freeway.

Freeways move millions of vehicles a day.  In general, they move those vehicles quickly and safely.  The reason they are successful is because "the rules" foster coherence and because "limited access" restricts the injection of chaos to predictable amounts and locations.  Therefore, the chaos seldom rises above levels where "the rules" can dampen it back down.

Even a modest loss of coherence causes things to break down.
The guy who zigs-and-zags?  He is aggravating because he is breaking the rules.  He is chaos.  He makes the system more fragile.

Stages of development
Rule breaking is a developmental stage.

It occurs when the youth is old enough to have some autonomy and has the intellectual powers to ask, "What happens if..."

That developmental state is mercifully short in cultures where chaos is not tolerated and where the costs incurred by the chaos are levied against the perpetrator.

That developmental state becomes the endpoint in cultures where chaos is tolerated or fostered.

Source of graphic
Baltimore schools have had attendance issues for a long time.  Basically, half of the high school students miss one or more days a week.

The study linked above lists the following "reasons".
The reasons are strongly clustered around drug/alcohol abuse and its inevitable consequences (circled) with a few smaller satellites of bullying and peer pressure.

It is not racist to repudiate substance abuse and bullying.  To not repudiate them is to embrace chaos, to invite failure.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Turbo Tax

No down bump in the stock price.
I went to Walmart to pick up a copy of Turbo Tax 2018.

The sales assistant informed me that she had just read an internal email saying that Walmart was not going to carry Turbo Tax in their stores.

Walmart is conspicuous by its absence, although I do see Sam's Club
If this is true then one would expect a downward movement in the stock price of Intuit.  Losing Walmart as a customer has to sting from a sales volume standpoint.  Software is a high fixed cost business.  Selling incremental units adds almost no cost.  Consequently, profit is exquisitely sensitive to volume.


Contributing to the vibrant tapestry that is America.

They would not be here if I did not feed them.  The little, white whiskers are falling snow.

They are giving me the stink-eye.
I think they resent having to visit the low-rent part of town to get their food.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Bankruptcy Filings, 2007-2017

Quarterly bankruptcy filings, all chapters.  Data from HERE.
Interesting ripple in the data.  April-May-June period seems to have the highest rate of filing.  Taxes?

Vertical red lines approximate presidential elections.

The depths of the Great Recession had twice as high a bankruptcy rate as mid-2007.  The rate now is lower than mid-2007, especially when you consider that the US population has grown about 10% since then.

In very round numbers, approximately seven of every thousand US households declare bankruptcy in a year.

It is good weather for soup

Mrs ERJ and I have different "styles" of soup.

Hers tend to be flavorful and are intended to be one part of a multi-part meal. 

Mine tend to be like cowboy coffee; you can stand your spoon in them and are a complete meal when complemented with bread, biscuits, rolls or crackers.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Thinning out the woods

An apple tree immediately to the left of the spruce tree in the center of the frame.

And now the spruce tree and a Black Locust are gone.

I went out with the chainsaw this morning to open up the canopy around specimens I wish to favor.

My fingers got cold.  Yesterday's freezing rain locked up the mechanism on the back of our outdoor thermometer and faked me into thinking it was 30 F outside.  Wrong.

A photo looking up, into the canopy before cutting.

After cutting.  Clearly, the apple tree will get much more light than before the cutting.

Another before-after sequence.  Cutting Black Locust suckers that are over-topping a  small Chestnut planting.
The Chestnuts are the trees that are still holding their leaves.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Trigger words

"Hey kids.  What are you doing home?  Aren't you supposed to be in school?"

"We got kicked out, Pops." my oldest boy said.

"Bull-cookies.  Why would they kick out such well mannered and precise young people as you?" I asked.

"The teachers say that we 'trigger' them." my daughter responded.

"Impossible." I said.   "Now Timney, I want you to take Jewell, Shilen and little Basix back to school.  Triggering.  Indeed!"