High Entropy

Entropy – 5. Inevitable and steady deterioration of a system or society. (American Heritage Dictionary)

Entropy isn’t just a scientific concept. It’s everywhere you look. Relationships have entropy. To maintain a marriage you have to put energy into it otherwise it falls apart. One of the failures newlyweds make is viewing the wedding as the finish line instead of the starting gun of a life-long marathon. You can’t coast on inertia. You have to constantly feed energy into the relationship, whether by arranging the occasional romantic get-away or by keeping the kids away from a worn-out spouse who needs some space to relax.

If you want your children to grow into decent human beings you spend time, money and energy to educate them and build their characters. But you don’t buy all that up front or spend it all at once. It comes from you in the morning when you drag them out of their beds. It comes in the mid-day with calls from school or text messages for various requests. It is a constant feeding of energy into a child and even as they grow older and become independent it does not go away. Instead that energy morphs into worry, and there is no fear in the world like waiting for a child to come after missing her curfew. The seconds stretch into horrifying minutes punctuated by unanswered text messages and phone calls until mercifully ending with a texted response. “Sorry. Fell asleep watching a movie. On my way home now.”

Jobs are by there nature high entropy. We are inevitably graded on our performance and success only raises expectations. If we manage people we have to expend energy to help them become better at what they do and achieve success in their positions. Some of us have to do the same for our bosses as well.

You can’t have friends without tending their relationships either. Expend no energy and the connection withers away until all that is left from time spent sharing heart-to-heart chats and intense experiences are likes on Facebook.

Houses require constant upkeep. My grass is so high I swear I can hear Ride of the Valkyries and chopper blades in the distance. Is that napalm I smell? No it’s the 5 gallon gas can that cracked from sitting in the sun too long where I left it after the lawn tractor threw yet another belt.

Finally there are our own bodies and minds. These usually come last but likely shouldn’t. When healthy our minds take our bodies for granted. We might not be gym-worthy, but we can pick up a 40 lb bag of cat litter and carry it down the stairs without becoming out of breath or feeling pain. The mind doesn’t even think about the wonder of that action. It just takes it for granted until our body fails us. Then the mind slips from its authoritative perch and all it can do is focus on the failure of the body to do what it has done all along without complaint.

If we live in an entropic world, how do we live with entropy without falling apart? How do we keep expending increasing amounts of energy while our own reserves become depleted?


UCSD Forces Students To Get Naked With Creepy Prof

I am an alumnus of the University of California at San Diego not that it matters much these days. The University used to call me and send me emails until I wrote a rather scathing letter stating I would not donate a dime to an institution that tacitly supported the BDS movement. Since then? Absolute sweet silence. But being an alum I nevertheless pay attention to news stories about my alma mater. Most of the time UCSD makes the news about computers or medicine but every once in a while there’s a story like this:

Naked Final Exam at UCSD Sparks Mom’s Outrage

In this Visual Arts class all students and the professor must get naked in a candlelit room in order to pass the final exam by performing “a gesture that traces, outlines or speaks about your ‘erotic self(s).”

Uh-huh. So a bunch of teens and twenty-somethings have to get naked with a middle aged male professor in a candle lit room in order to pass a class.

I used to hang out with visual arts majors. In fact I minored in photography so I ended up taking a lot of VA classes. One of them involved crawling on my hands and knees through a paper tunnel covered with images while being blasted with news headlines from hidden speakers. Not exactly Piss Christ but UCSD has always been the ignored sibling compared to UCLA and Berkeley, making it the UC version of Downton Abbey’s Edith in a way. So I’m sure Professor Ricardo Dominguez and UCSD as a whole is basking in the media attention.

But I find it ironic that in order to pass a class one has to get naked with the professor. Against one’s will.

Isn’t that sexual coercion? Even perhaps rape?

Look, VA majors can waste their and their parents money if they want by taking useless classes just as I did. But I’d like to see how many of Dominguez’s students would choose to get naked with the prof if given the choice.

If you watch the embedded video in the Breitbart link (you don’t have choice, it’s set to autoplay in the browser) you’ll hear the mother of the student break down into tears over the issue. A few thoughts on that.

First, while creepy the experience is not going to scar her little flower for life the way she states in the ABC interview. If it does, then I have some news for her: her daughter is in for much, much worse in Life. Good luck trying to protect her from that.

Second, I think the mother would get much more traction by attacking the prof along Title IX lines rather than making it a moral issue. The Left doesn’t have a moral compass anymore thanks to its corruption by Relativism, but the fact that a woman must submit to being naked in front of an older man stinks of patriarchal privilege. Attack the professor with feminism. It will be harder since he is a minority which is why he’s probably gotten away with it so far (if he was a white guy I’m sure this tactic would have already been taken much earlier.)

After all by forcing students to get naked isn’t Dominguez a type of rapist?

Would my perception would change if the professor was a woman? Perhaps it’s because I’ve been influenced by feminist culture or maybe it’s opposite but I think there would be a big difference. The power issue would still be there – getting naked in front of a superior in order to do their bidding – but it wouldn’t creep me out as much. Maybe it’s because I’m a middle aged man and see the reality of men and women differently.

Men and women are different. Men have been cursed with the sex drive necessary to maintain the species, and that drive often leads us to madness. Are there women sexual predators? Of course. The news is full of female teachers sexually assaulting their male – and female – students but the vast majority of sexual deviants remain male. And that results in a high creepiness factor for me in this story.

Would it matter if Dominguez is a gay man? Nope. The predatorial aspect would remain. If he were a lesbian? Yes but honestly I’d have to think for a while why.

We need to really pull back from the sexual aspect of the story and ask ourselves, “Is it really appropriate to force someone to undress in public?” I remember being terrified to undress in the boy’s locker-room in high school and I believe the bottom line is that our sexuality is sacred and it should never be toyed with by another human being for the sake of anything let alone “art”, especially by an aging third-rate Leftist hack like Dominguez.

In the meantime UCSD kids: Just say “No” to getting naked with a creepy middle aged dude. If it’s too late to withdraw and take a “w” then don’t worry about the GPA hit. No one takes VA grades seriously anyway.

Exceptional Americans by Don Surber

Commentator and fellow Watcher’s Council member Don Surber has released his new book, “Exceptional Americans.” The book tells the stories of 50 Americans who aren’t very well known but left their marks on our nation. Definitely inspirational and worthy of adding to your Summer reading list.

Council Submissions: April 29, 2015

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Customer Satisfaction and Medical Care

A recent local news article ranked area hospitals using a customer satisfaction survey and found the smallest hospitals ranked at the top and the largest regional hospital at the bottom. Based on the newspaper article you would think that in an emergency you should head to the smaller hospital. Unfortunately the article ignored a simple fact about customer satisfaction and good medical care: they have nothing in common.

Well that’s not completely true. A 2012 JAMA study looked at patient satisfaction and found higher patient satisfaction “was associated with less emergency department use but with greater inpatient use, higher overall health care and prescription drug expenditures, and increased mortality.” So making your patients happy may be lethal.

The hospital ranked highest happens to be the area’s largest employer, and the second highest hospital, the second largest employer. In rural communities if you don’t work at one of these hospitals chances are you know somebody who does. This fact alone could explain the high satisfaction scores.

But when you’ve been in a motorcycle accident or are having chest pain are you going to the hospital for a social outing? Numerous studies find larger hospitals have better outcomes than smaller ones. This is one reason why, when I was thrown from a dirt bike into the hard red clay last November I skipped the local hospital ranked highest in customer satisfaction and went straight to the large hospital ranked at the bottom. In metrics that matter such as positive outcomes and quality of care that hospital ranks as one of the state’s best, so it was worth driving the distance in extreme pain.

As large health care systems take over small independent hospitals and practices, many of the same tools and metrics used by corporations to judge how they are doing will be applied to medicine. A satisfaction survey makes sense if you are staying at a hotel or have made an online purchase. But when you are sick or injured all that matters is the competence of the staff treating you, and that is something that will not be captured in a customer satisfaction survey.

The Council Has Spoken: April 24, 2015

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Council Submissions: April 22, 2015

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What My Taxes Could Buy

In a previous post I lamented the total my family paid in state and federal income taxes last year and suggested that with that money I could have hired my own public servant. Extending that idea some I decided to search USAJobs to find out which civil servant that money would get me. Here are some of the positions whose pay grade fell within the total my family paid. Note that this cost does not factor in fringe benefits which for federal employees are borderline ridiculous to those of us who never worked outside of the private sector where even the coffee isn’t free these days. But since that’s tough to calculate and would overcomplicate this simple blog post, I’ll assume the cost of intangibles like fringe benefits is not more than 20% of salary. We are also not wealthy so a high level civil servant like a secretary of state is out of the question. Even Hillary’s speaking fee would take several years worth of taxes to pay.

So what would our taxes buy us if the IRS decided to let us hire directly*?

1. Security Guard -  I’ve never understood why you pay a guy so poorly to protect you and your stuff. Either pay him well so that he’ll take a bullet or don’t hire one at all and go with a security system, a well stocked gun safe or both. While I like the idea of having my own private security guard even a well paid one we could really use the help in other areas.

2. Wildlife Biologist – Cool! I’ve always wanted one of these. In fact I was one (sort of) in a previous life and have a lot of respect for those who choose this profession. There’s lots of wildlife on our property and I’m interested in getting more. The other day I took the dogs out for a run in the upper field and heard a bobcat in the nearby woods. The dogs took off after the howl but the cat was too fast for them and called again far enough away that the dogs went back to sniffing each other’s pee. Several species of snakes, birds and other critters call our property home, and I’m sure we could keep him/her busy. While it’s cool to have one on staff, there are other pressing needs. Still let’s not rule this job out just yet.

3. Aircraft mechanic – Let’s rule this one out right now. Although I do plan on getting my pilot’s license before I shuffle off this mortal coil I could really use a lawnmower mechanic more than an aircraft mechanic at this juncture.

4. Foreign Service Employee – I wanted to be one of these so bad at one time but Life got in the way – most likely for the best because my deep debilitating shyness often manifests as arrogance, likely why I washed out of the interview process. Still with our taxes I could afford to hire my own diplomat. I could probably also send him or her to Switzerland to intervene in the Iran negotiations by shouting Persian insults at the Iranian negotiating team. “A mouse should eat you!” That would make the New York Times front page.

5. IT Specialist – You’re hired! There’s nothing worse for a computer professional than troubleshooting your own gear when you don’t feel like it. I need an Apple Support tech just to handle the Wife’s Apple products, and one with networking skills could rewire my home network so that I didn’t need 3 hotspots just to cover my 2,000 square foot house.

Unfortunately the IRS won’t let us hire directly, but I recommend everyone look at their total income tax bill – not just the refund. You might be surprised at how much you pay. I’ll also admit that I’m a bit jealous over the pay and perks of civil servants. Until recently I didn’t even have the benefit of paid time off, so the idea of working one day as a substitute teacher and getting a $30k/year pension for life does inspire a hint of jealousy, but even more outrage.

  • Before someone goes all freaky the above is satire. All taxes were paid and no public servants were harmed in the making of this essay. Satire used to be allowed in our society but over the past decades I’ve watched our freedom of speech get nibbled away by mice first on the Right during the Reagan administration then on the Left during the Clinton and Obama years. If you think I’m making this up watch a movie from the 1970s. The language is shocking and would never make it on screen today which is perhaps why comedy is dying in our country. Yes it is dying. Nothing made this century comes close to the humor of Blazing Saddles or Airplane! let alone earlier classics like The Pink Panther and A Night at the Opera.

The Council Has Spoken: April 17, 2015

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Happy Pay Your Fair Share Day

Today is April 15th and for American citizens around the world it is the annual day of reckoning when all federal, state and local income taxes for the previous year are due. For conservatives and libertarians it is a day to despise but for liberals it is a day to celebrate. 49% of Americans do not pay any income taxes and benefit in many ways from the taxes paid from the 51% percent, so how you feel about today depends on whether or not you pay income tax.

My family is one of the 51% who does pay income taxes.  I know exactly how much we pay and we pay a lot. How much is that? Well without going into too much detail we pay enough to employ our very own government worker, one of America’s 22 million government employees. It would be nice if we could buy him outright. My grass needs cutting, some of the dogs baths and there’s always trees to fell in the forest. It would be great to have someone clean house or cook, activities that I usually end up doing after work.

I know I’m not the first to realize this, but if you don’t pay taxes why should you be allowed to vote? Shouldn’t those who actually have skin in the game by paying taxes elect those who create tax laws? We had a revolution with a slogan of “No taxation without representation,” perhaps the new slogan should be “No Representation Without Taxation.”

For more info on that idea check out this Forbes piece, worth it for the Benjamin Franklin quote you won’t see on a Toyota Prius anytime soon.



Council Submissions: April 15, 2015

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Gay Married Couples Subject to the Marriage Penalty

Having just finished filing the taxes for this family unit I got to wondering how gay married couples are handling the federal marriage penalty tax. For those who aren’t familiar, the marriage penalty is a tax on those who work, make roughly the same amount of money, and are married. Since the Feds now recognize gay marriage, this means that many gay professionals who get married now find themselves subjected to the same marriage tax that their straight friends are.

USA Today has a good breakdown on the Marriage Penalty for those who aren’t familiar with it. It notes, “For a single filer, this bracket ends at an income of $89,350. If you simply doubled that number to get the top amount for joint filers, you’d see $178,700. But, unfortunately, that’s not how it works. For 2014, the 25 percent tax bracket ends at $148,850 for married couples filing jointly. Thus, they find themselves penalized for their combined income.”

I’m not sure what the history of the Marriage Penalty is, whether it was an unintended side effect as more women joined the work force or whether it was intentional. Either way one thing’s for sure: the Feds are hooked on the Marriage Penalty income and won’t be changing it anytime soon. So to all those gay DINK couples, hope the fight was worth it.

The Council Has Spoken: April 10, 2015

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Council Submissions: April 8, 2015

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Gander Sauce

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz wants America to discuss race, not his paycheck I guess since he makes over a 1,100 the average hourly wage of his employees. Prince Charles records an appeal to Brits asking them to turn off the lights to help cut greenhouse gas emissions, then hours later takes an 80 mile helicopter trip that pollutes the atmosphere with over a ton of CO2 instead of taking a car that would have emitted a twentieth of that. Apple CEO Tim Cook likens Indiana’s religious protection laws to the Jim Crow laws that kept the races separate a half century ago, then continues to do business in China, Russia and the Arab world where gays are subjected to official state-sanctioned discrimination.

Starbucks CEO Schultz: How about hiring some African-Americans to your board and beefing up the number of women? Think of it as a cost saving measure since both women and minorities tend to earn less than equivalent white guys. And since you are so keen on progressive causes, how about setting the floor for your staff at $15/hr, an effort you not-so-progressively fought? Maybe then you wouldn’t have to not-so-progressively bust their barista union.

Prince Chuck – Helicopters are cool, especially when piloted by guys with British accents, so I can understand your desire to use one. Heck, I would if I could afford it, but then again I’m not a priest in the Church of Global Warming like you are. Now I know you’ve purchased carbon offsets but the average bloke can’t afford the expense of those indulgences, so he has to sit in the dark or suffer lukewarm tea if he wants to remain a member of the faith. If you truly believed in what you preached you’d stay put in Buckingham Palace waiting for mummy to keel over and using telepresence technology to attend all the enviro-weenie forums you champion. Perhaps you’d even forgo the palace and rent a cozy flat somewhere where you and Camilla could have tiny carbon footprints together.

Apple CEO Tim Cook – How can a gay man live with the knowledge that your firm regularly does business with regimes who oppress gays in their countries? How can you sleep at night when the employees of the companies that make your gear throw themselves off buildings if they can’t tolerate the slave-like pay and working conditions? Doesn’t the cognitive dissonance of championing leftist causes while benefiting from the suffering of your global workforce ever get to you? You have the chutzpa to attack a state where women can drive, and where gays don’t have to worry about being hung or re-educated.

It seems only fair that we hold these rich and powerful men to their own standards. The stupidity is going to keep on coming until we force those who demand one thing from a group of people “the public”, “Indianans” or “Americans” while refusing to hold themselves to the same standards.