Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Stupidity has compound interest

Yesterday morning I took my car to the gym as usual not that you'd know it by looking at me but I remain a regular even if I can't convince myself to swim eight miles a week anymore and anyway just like I always do I locked my wallet and other valuables in the car before I went in which is fine but little did I remember to take it out of the car later you see because I needed to take my wife's car which is bigger and has a moonroof but I didn't need it for the pre-morning routine but more for the afternoon to pick my cousin up from college in Boston where she attends or her stuff does and it was a pile of boxes that I really had to pick up to save the kid a few bucks on shipping two hundred pounds of near-worthless dormroom accessories to the Northwest and back again which would be a pretty pointless and expensive exercise so I don't mind stuffing the boxes in the attic for a couple months except that my wallet remember was in my other car and I didn't realize it until I got to work and I didn't have my id to get into her building and I didn't have the toll transponder either which also resides in the other car but not my wife's and I didn't have any cash for the ever-increasing fare to enter the city and so I gathered up the change under the seats and mooched a couple of bucks off of my co-worker worrying that I might not even have enough cash to get into Boston and quite confident indeed that I won't be able to drive out of it and I'd have to ask my cousin for a couple more which is embarrassing because she's just a broke college kid and what the hell I'd rather offer to buy her dinner out or something like that to show an example of how nice and responsible try to act which in essence is something other than mooching off of broke people and she's got an injured leg and had to bin up her crap and take it down herself because I can't sign in especially with my seedy badly shaven shaggy-haired thirtysomething maleness and don't I feel like an idiot but it's not like I have a credit card either to identify myself or an atm card to get toll cash and I beg my couple of quarters from my cousin and head out on the Pike thinking that if the toll adds up to more than $3.25 then I'm screwed because my absence of cash is going to make me more likely to run a toll which is going to make it more likely get pulled over which my absense of a license is going to really exacerbate to the level of court appearance and I'm humming along and failing to resist the urge to speed and my knuckles are pale on the steering wheel and I'm beating myself up for the minor error that added up to such a ineluctably dumb situation and I think back to the stupid things I did in college and since too for that matter and it comes to me that this near-panicked sense of intense embarrassment and belayed consequences all deriving from some trivial fuckup or failure to plan some minor detail isn't exactly unfamiliar and while it hasn't happened all the time it's still been a companion all my life and I figure I really have to re-evaluate but re-evaluate what exactly and what then?


switters said...

When I was up in Ohio, the first week of February of 2009, when mom was dying, I had put my truck in 4x4 because her driveway was really steep and there was ice everywhere. The next morning, when I went to leave for the hospital, it wouldn't come out of 4x4. So I called Jess, who was doing some Amish house call banking. He showed up, got in the passenger seat, and we went through all the steps to get it out of 4x4. Start car, neutral, apply brake, shift to H. It didn't budge. So we repeated it, then he grabbed the 4x4 stick and pulled it back, with some authority, into H, and said, "I guess you just have to put a little 1/8 of a ton behind it."

I cried. He said, "What's wrong?" I said, "I guess it's always something with me." He laughed.

We've talked a little bit about this before, but I'm looking not to make my world smaller; I'm looking to make it huger in order to derive whatever perspective I can glean from it.

But I'll still need TV reception and internet every once in awhile.

Mom said everything will work out just fine. I hope so, for all of us who tend to take things too solemnly.

I.e., you're good people.

Keifus said...

You know, I frequently find myself on the verge of running out of gas on the highway, sweating out just how far it'll go. Sometimes it's fun, other times I just wonder what the hell I'm ever thinking. I chronically go to the wrong airport when I travel, to the point where my boss calls me now before I leave. I have always made conflicting appointments and let it get urgent before I admit it, because planning bores me and I hate scripting my days (even if I'm not particularly spontaneous) and cancelling or making excuses is unpleasant to me.

It's all pretty minor stuff in my case, but I sometimes wonder too how many actual crimes get committed from stupid situations gone out of hand.

It doesn't sound like a smaller world to me that you're moving to. After all, what the fuck is more spiritually limiting than a nine-to-five in some place you hate? (Well, the same thing with more work and less pay is worse, but you know what I mean.)

And yeah, you'd better have some broadband up there dude.

switters said...

You're right, of course. Just trying, sheepishly, anxiously, to peel (peal?) back the veneer of an unmeaningful (spell check doesn't think that's a word) existence so that I can, at long last, at the age of 42, then 43, realize my legacy mom and dad brought before me: read a lot, be decent and fair-minded; but most of all, be happy, love what you do, leave the place better than you found it, which in my case seems like a no-brainer. But if anybody could screw it up, it's yours truly.

It's all so daunting, and often I feel like I'm forcing myself to accept this change that must be, that it has to become an inevitability whether I like it at the time or not.

The sub on Marketwatch, when asked what the most valuable thing she had was, responded, "Freedom from a 9 to 5 existence." So, yeah, get out of my head, both of you.

(Yes, really enjoyed the post. I think we've all seen that morality play play out, so to speak.

Keifus said...

"be decent and fair-minded; but most of all, be happy, love what you do, leave the place better than you found it."

What more could anyone ask for?

switters said...

They were exceptional people and spectacular parents. I don't say this to boast, but in complete humility. From what little you've spoken about your parents, and how I've come to esteem you, I assume you can relate.

Cindy said...

May I just say to both of you that I simply, deeply and wonderfully love being able to peek in on your conversations?

There is always room in my life for younger brothers such as yourselves.

twif said...

i've had mornings like that.

Keifus said...

You guys know I'm kind of a schmuck, right? Just making sure. Sometimes it takes people awhile.

My parents had kids in their early/mid twenties. They're baby boomers, just barely in their sixties now, and I don't get a whole lot of a different world/different time vibe from them. (Kind of the opposite, which is unsettling sometimes.) Not that they didn't do a hell of a job--they both made a conscious effort to do better than the fucked-up-in-the-usual-ways lives they had as kids. I wish I was doing as good a job as they did.

Schmutzie said...

You're my kind of schmuck.

It all started when my I-Pass account was shut down because Chase issued me a new credit card with a new expiration date and so when the people in Springfield tried to recharge my account with another $40 the Chase people declined the charge because the old expiration date was a month ago and so it was an expired card and they didn't take the time to check if I had a new card so they started logging the number of times I zipped through the O'Hare/Irving Park Toll Plaza's I-Pass lane, which should have cost 40 cents each time only they didn't because the card was expired and my I-Pass transponder was sending off a signal that the sensors had flagged as "suspended" and so I wound up with about 30 tolls unpaid and so I received a notice from Jesse White, Illinois Secretary of State that my replacement license plates were being held up because of an outstanding bill with the Tollway Authority in the amount of $240, $220 of which was penalties for not paying my tolls, and so I sent $220 to the I-Pass people, plus another $60 to charge up my transponder and "reset" the account away from "suspended" and so I got clipped $240 total because Chase sent me a new card with a new expiration date.

They don't call me Schmuckzie for muthin'.

Ben There said...

Hi Keif -

This actually has nothing to do with this particular post (and my apologies for that) but I wanted to let you know that I thoroughly enjoyed "Bridge Of Birds". Had never heard of it but your review piqued my interest, and lo, what a fun read it was while I was stuck at home with a nasty stomach virus a couple weeks ago.

Keifus said...

They did that with my gym membership just this month. Normally an auto withdrawal, and when the card expires, I get a nastygram and a twenty dollar fee within a day. A fucking day. I guess it's a little less than $240 though. I think the canonical example of that sort of thing is when you off by a couple bucks in your checking account, and then get a succession of fees from both ends for some short payment. Some of these things I think are designed this way.

twif: me too!

ben: glad you liked it, it's a gem. (And there's a reason this one's labeled filler.)

Anonymous said...

Off topic (though may be not so much...)
I did respond to your comment at the Archdruid's blog, but my response has been scraped, likely because it conflicts with the "gospel" over there.
Trying to rebuild it from memory (I always fail to be wary enough of censorship).

There is no contradiction:
- Nature complexity has NO COST, nobody foots the bill, nature energy supplies are meant to be "wasted" anyway.
- Nature complexity has MATURED over billions years, any short lived arrangement has been weeded out and we only see the most resilient schemes.
- Nature never "fails" because nature has no goals, however species DO FAIL to meet they goal, reproducing, just feeding and breeding.
Thus it is misleading to compare nature complexity to our's.
We are on our own.

It looks like the Archdruid won't hear any serious arguments against his ideology.
As many others he may be pushing a concealed agenda or being a delusional idiot (or both...).

Keifus said...

Well, thanks for stopping by to reply. I appreciate it.

Yeah, I was thinking about that comment. There are different meanings of complexity, and it's probably better to be careful about conflating them.

There's complexity of nature, all that systems-of-systems-of-systems business (that happens pretty deeply in non-biological processes too, but still more complexity has helped biological systems persist on earth). In everything, there's more going on the deeper you look.

Also, our complexity and nature's complexity are really the same thing. We're part of nature, doing things members of our species tend to do, just like all the other animals. Making gizmos, burning stuff, overconsuming resources, and telling ourselves we're special. It's not flattering, but it's certainly natural. We're not apart.

Next, there's complexity of description, how much detail do we need to understand something at what level? How deep should you look? Science has a hallowed (and sometimes even observed) tradition of describing things with minimum necessary complexity, but that necessary minimum can turn out to be more than you first think. In contrast, I think intellectual positions of power within society (whether financiers, academics, or priests) have a temptation to add unnecessary complexity in order to perpetuate their special role. One of those things is a philosophical question, the other is a social one, but both address the complexity of our understanding.

Finally, there's the sort of the sort of complexity that Tainter intends, at least as best as I can glean. Maybe call it a problem-solving version. The sort of last-ditch rationalizing effort that Greer describes sounds a little like the ad hoc reasoning you find in "pathological" science, but I think the usual scientific method will result in a lot of revisions and add-ons too, and failing theories might go on past their shelf life because of this. Then again, scientific revolutions happen too, as I've been lectured on a couple of occasions.

Like I said in the earlier comment, it sounds like a reasonable description of how humans behave when they run into problems, and sometimes diversifying the approach isn't what's needed to overcome them. I don't think those problems are an inherent consequence of the first type of complexity though. The second type may contribute to them, but I would hesitate to call it a necessary condition of failure.