Hurricane Rerun: The Sackler Laws (Part 2 1/2)

Here is part two of the rerun which began on Monday.  If the northeast USA has been washed away by the time you read this, consider it my last will and testament.  If not, brace yourself for something new by the weekend.

The Laws of Kid and Canine Chaos

Having kids is like having a bowling alley installed in your brain.”–Alan Bleasdale

Part B: The Equation of Kid Chaos.  As the number of kids in any household or otherwise confined environment increases, the chaos generated by said kids increases logarithmically.

As we saw in Part A of this law, The Equation of Canine Chaos, dog generated insanity increases exponentially as dog population increases.  With kids it is infinitely more complex; so we see:

Heaven help us! (even if we are not pious)

When n=1 then Ck=1, but when n>1 then Ck=10n-1

So…n is the number of kids present in a given environment, and Ck is the potential kid-generated chaos in that environment.   In plain English?  The potential chaos increases by an order of magnitude with each kid added!  In other words—for the mathematically challenged among you—two kids may be 10 times as chaotic as one; three may be 100 times as chaotic; four, 1000 times, and so on.

But the increase in analytical complexity here is far greater than the math.  For dogs, the equation is for actual chaos and is a good average.  For kids, it is only for potential chaos, and is somewhere between an approximation and a wild guess.  For one thing, the interactions between children are so complex that they quickly become incalculable.  A good metaphor for this is Newton’s laws of gravity when applied to orbital mechanics of celestial objects: the interaction between two of them is precisely calculable, but as soon as you add even one more the math becomes intractable.

This does not even bring into the equation the question of other variables, such as age, upbringing, setting and proximity to bedtime.  Setting is particularly important.  For example, put 20 nine-year-olds in a catechism class taught by an angry nun wielding a ruler, and the chaos will appear so infinitesimal even the CERN supercollider would be hard pressed to detect it.  Now put the same twenty kids in an unsupervised free swim in a public pool, and you’ll pin the needle on the Richter scale.

But wait, it gets worse!  Dog chaos is pretty obviously measured by noise and activity; but with kids that doesn’t completely tell the tale.   Even when they are quiet there is no telling what’s going on in their little crania.  Take, for example, those twenty tykes in the catechism class.  They may appear behaved now, but what they are plotting to do to that nun when class gets out makes Lord of the Flies look like a sitcom.

This brings us to the most perplexing problem of all: putting multiple kids and dogs together and attempting to calculate what will happen.  It is not unlike trying to unify relativity and quantum mechanics into a single theory of quantum gravity.   In discussing this with my cousin Marion, I asserted that she could not imagine what the equation would look like.  Her sly reply was that she could not even imagine what the room would look like!  Not being one to back off from a challenge, I found this image which fairly represents what both the resulting math and the domicile will look like.

The Equation of Combined Kid AND Canine Chaos

With that,  have a great holiday week and brace yourself for more.


Hurricane Rerun: The Sackler Laws (Part 2)

By the time you read this, hurricane Sandy will be pounding the northeast US.  I’m not one to let that stop me; this post has been pre-scheduled.  For those of you who have come late to this blog–or who need a reminder as to what inspired Equations of Everyday Life–here is the first part of two reruns.  If I don’t post something new within a week, send out a search party.

The Laws of Kid and Canine Chaos

“Chaos is inherent in all compounded things.” –Buddha

Part A, the equation of canine chaos: As the number of dogs in any household, or otherwise confined environment increases, the chaos generated by said dogs increases exponentially.

The math on this one is easy and so is the logic. Let’s start with an easy equation:


Simply stated, where Cd equals canine chaos and D equals the number of dogs present, then canine chaos equals the number dogs present squared. So two dogs equals four times the chaos, three dogs equals nine times the chaos, four dogs 16 times, and so on.

As for the logic, that’s also easy. Assuming that dogs are a pack animal, then each chaotic activity started by one, will be joined in by the others. This includes, but is not limited to, barking, fighting, knocking over the trash, attacking the mailman, biting Aunt Millie, pooping in the hallway, stealing your lunch and whatever other crazy things canines do. So, if there are two dogs, it will happen twice as often and be twice as chaotic each time. If there are three dogs, it will happen three times as often and be three times as chaotic. You get the idea.

Disclaimer: this equation is an average. Obviously, geriatric dogs will create less chaos and puppies are off the chart crazy. The breed of dog is a factor as well. (See figure X, schipperkes, and figure Y—as in “why?”—labs)

Figure X. Schipperke [Pronunciation: skip-it; origin: Dutch, meaning little s&$^%#–er, I mean, “little captain”] Noun: 1. a furry black dog of Belgian origin 2. trouble waiting to happen

Figure Y. As in, “why do people keep these things?” (attribution of photo unknown)

Take for example, our own pack of three (if you can believe that) schipperkes. They have the uncanny knack of lulling us into complete complacency. Then a chipmunk runs across the lawn and our former state of quietude is instantly transformed into the canine equivalent of One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. I’m sure insanity is zoonotic. You get it from your pets.

We also need to consider that there are limits to the human capability to distinguish between degrees of canine chaos. At some point, the saturation point is reached, and the perceived chaos is effectively infinite. Beyond this, addition of more dogs to the environment cannot inflict any measurably higher degree of pain. These limits may vary with the individual. I, for instance, have lived with multiple dogs for years and therefor have a higher threshold of tolerance than the average person. On the other hand, my wife is a veterinarian and is effectively immune. Our dogs could stage World War III on top of her head in the middle of the night, and she would sleep through it. [NOTE: Part B, the Law of Kid Chaos, coming soon in a future post.]

Text in the post ©2012 Mark Sackler


Time Out: Pearls Before Swine

“When in doubt, kill cute things.”–

Stephan Pastis, Pearls Before Swine creator

This is Stephan Pastis

This is Stephan Pastis on Drugs

More than once in these pages, I have asserted an aversion to thinking “inside the box.”  But I must admit, I’m an amateur at thinking outside the box compared to Pearl’s Before Swine cartoonist Stephan Pastis.  His thinking, as implied by his daily comic strips, is somewhere between “outside the box” and completely sick.  You might deem it closer to the latter; he almost certainly does.  What else can you say about a guy who draws himself into his own strips, usually representing himself as being abused by his own characters?   He even draws outside the box literally. In one strip–which I unfortunately could not find a reproduction of online–he depicts two of his characters sitting on the bottom border of the last panel, feet dangling down from it, derisively tossing sunflower seeds at the strip below them on the comics page.  His characters know they are in a comic strip, and they milk it for all its worth.

The Players

The regular characters are anthropomorphic animals that go by the names of their species.  Pig. Rat. Goat. Zebra.  Here is a rundown.

Rat–The nastiest, most cynical and self-centered comic strip personage this side of Lucy van Pelt.  Rat is egotistical, superior, overbearing and mean.  He gains amusement at the expense of everyone and everything that isn’t him.   But his primary target is his roommate, Pig.

If you can’t figure out why I like this particular strip, you haven’t been paying attention to this blog. (Click for larger image)

Pig–Simple-minded and literal to a fault, Pig is the polar opposite of Rat.  That he lives with Rat, and puts up with constant verbal and physical abuse from him, is the source of many of the strip’s jokes.  Pig most reminds me of Gracie Allen.

Goat–If pig is Gracie Allen, then Goat is George Burns.  Intellectual and reflective, he is the perfect straight man to Rat and Goat.  It is, as you can see from the strip above and the one below, a toss-up as to what exasperates him more: Rat’s arrogance or Pig’s naivety.

Goat is a man after this blogger’s heart. Pig, not so much. (Click to see enlarged image)

Zebra–A neighbor of Pig and Rat,  Zebra is a man on a mission.  And that mission is?  To avoid being eaten by his next door neighbors, the crocodiles of Zeeba Zeeba Eata fraternity.   This is not too big a problem, because the Crocs, though scheming and conniving, are incompetent, downright dumb, and they also talk funny.  Unlike the other characters in the strip, some of these crocs actually have names.  Most frequently, that name is Bob.  Either there have been several crocs named Bob or Pastis has killed Bob more times than South Park has killed Kenny.  A  typical interaction between Zebra and his neighbors below.

This one reads like it was written for this blog! (click for larger image)

Guard Duck–I’m a bit reluctant to admit it, but this is my favorite Pearls character.   Rat and Pig wanted to buy a guard dog to protect their house.  They couldn’t afford one, so they bought a guard duck instead.  What they got turned out to be a cross between Elmer Fudd and Rambo.  I’m a peace-loving kind of guy, but GD is so over the top I just have to laugh.  A lot.

Stephan Pastis–Yes, Pastis is a character in his own strip.  He interacts with the other characters, fights with them and, most often, is abused by them.  The last scenario–abuse–most frequently occurs in the last panel following an agonizing pun.

Ouch!! (Click for larger image)

Add to all this a variety of running gags which sometimes include characters from other popular comic strips (Pastis is particularly fond of poking fun at Cathy and Family Circus), and you get the idea.  He used to be a lawyer; now he is completely nuts.  He seemed to have two options in life when he decided to leave the legal profession:  Looney Toons, or the loony bin.  He could still go either way, but I’m glad he chose the former.

(Click for larger image)

If Pearls Before Swine does not appear in your local newspaper, you can follow it online  on GoComics or Yahoo Comics.  Pastis also has a WordPress blog.  A typically sick post example is here.

All cartoons in this post ©2012 Stephan Pastis;  Pastis portrait photo from Wikipedia;  all other content in this post ©2012 Mark Sackler


Photo Op #1: Past the Peak

“One is forever throwing away substance for shadows.”–Jennie Churchill

She rode from the leaves

For the shadows were deeper,


…and matter…

Words and images ©2012 Mark Sackler



The BLAHS #2: Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub

“To refuse awards is a way of accepting them with more noise than normal.”–Mark Twain (also attributed to Peter Ustinov)

The absolutely awesome BLAHS logo which adorns the tee shirts and refrigerator magnets awarded to the winners.

Thread update:   Since last we visited the BLAHS (BLog Awards Handed out by Sackler) I have been”nominated” for three more blog awards myself.   I used quotes around the term nominated because there are conditions behind accepting these particular awards. One must, depending on the award in question, “nominate” between five and ten other blogs for the award.  (You’ve probably seen many a blog boasting one of these awards:  Versatile Blogger Award,  One Lovely Blog Award, etc.). See, the thing is, these amount to the blogging equivalent of a chain letter.  If money were involved, it would be a Ponzi scheme;  the math doesn’t work too well.  If everybody nominated were to participate to the fullest extent possible, then within between ten and fifteen iterations there would be more awards handed out than there are people alive on this planet today.  How else would I be cited for three of them in less than six months of blogging? (Yeah, my ego is big, but not that big.)   Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate these other bloggers thinking of me, and will acknowledge them at the bottom of this post.   But I don’t do chain letters, multi-level marketing or Ponzi schemes, so I chose to create more noise by not accepting them.  (And at least my BLAHS are handed out one at a time, even if otherwise worthless).

Without further ado, the winner of BLAHS #2 is…


What could be more appropriate?  The first BLAHS went to The Blog of Funny Names.  So why shouldn’t the next one be awarded to the funniest named blog I know, after the funniest named president that most of us have ever (or never) heard of?  To be accurate, though, it’s not named after Millard Fillmore himself, but after one of the oddest hoaxes in American journalism history.  It was promulgated by H.L.Mencken,  who on December 28, 1917 published a story in The Evening Mail, stating that the date was the anniversary of the installation of the first bathtub in the White House by Fillmore in 1850.  It was complete bunkum;  yet to this day it has repeatedly been cited as fact–as this link recounts in detail.  This account clearly proves that fact checking in journalism and history is not dead–it never really existed in the first place.  Mencken intended the story as a joke, and was stunned that it was taken seriously despite several obvious fabrications. Fillmore’s hometown of Morovia, NY certainly has a sense of humor about the whole thing.  They stage an annual Millard Fillmore Day which for years featured a bathtub race as one of the main events.

The great Fillmore himself. Sadly, no images of his bathtub survive.

“Secondhand, commonplace, mediocre, undistinguished: these are the words that spring naturally to mind as one surveys Fillmore’s brief rise from obscurity and quick descent into oblivion,”–Paul Boller in “Presidential Anecdotes.”

Back to the award, though. Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub, the blog, touts itself as “striving for accuracy in history, economics, geography, education, and a little science.”  (Why only a little science, I have no idea).  But who cares?  Yes, the content is lively and interesting, but the name and premise it is based on is almost worthy of the award in and of itself.  Congrats, Ed, and keep up the good work.

The Prize

I promised to strive to find a completely useless prize for this award.  I almost did it.  I have fashioned a tee shirt and matching refrigerator magnet out of the logo which appears above.  Not useless?  Well, I figure nobody would actually want to show off this award, so the logo should do the trick.  Yes, I know, the tee shirt could still be used as a dishrag.  But short of a monogrammed piece of lint, this was the best I could think of;  I’m also betting somebody out there will think of a use for the lint.

Three Blogs of Note

These are the blogs that nominated me for the awards mentioned in the preface at the top of this article.  While I have chosen not to participate in these awards, I do appreciate their thinking of me–and I do read and recommend their respective blogs.

Sciencelens               Essa On Everything          The Art Frog

(Postscript:  It occurs to me that H.L. Mencken was also the author of many great quotes, one or more of which is bound to turn up in one of these posts.)


Time Out: Google This! (or The Color of Stupidity, Part 2)

“The Internet is a good way to get on the net.”–Bob Dole

I preferred the candidate that did not need such enhancement. Credit: Edward Cropper. Click image for link.

The above quote has to be the best thing Yogi Berra never said.  But I digress even before I get started.

With increased traffic comes increased search engine hits.  With increased search engine hits comes more great, completely irrelevant material.  I won’t bore you with repeating the whole story, if you missed the first installment of this feature, you can read it here.   So without further ado, let’s see what some of the less-than-sentient beings out there have been up to–here are more search engine queries that somehow found this blog, each followed, as usual, by my astute analysis.  (Image credit: Edward Cropper)

Vidoe— noe kiddinck?

Stupid names for your entertainment–I already covered that in detail here,  but how about….hmmm….Adam Sandler movies?

Equaions (sic!) in everyday life–the search engines speak Klingon now.

Examples of square roots in real life–my response is too terrifying for a family blog.  Click here if you must know the answer. (Actually, it’s really worth the click 😀 )

Satir Kipec–Nagrado žirija lahko podeli  (I hope that’s not obscene–I copied it from the start of the first link this search term returned.)

Figure X. Schipperke [Pronunciation: Skip-it; Origin, Dutch: Little S&$^%#–er, I mean Little Captain] Noun: 1. A Furry black dog of Belgian origin 2. Trouble waiting to happen

I’m part Schipperke–I bet you’re a little bit pregnant, too.

Examples of squares in everyday life–Bob Dole and Howard Walowitz.

Did Schrödinger’s cat blow up?–No, but it did come away with a hickey.

Malenium (sic!) conjectures–guys don’t conjecture; we just take wild guesses.

We also write wild blog posts.  Stay tuned.  There are evidently bound to be more of these.


Cosmic Quote #9

“The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.”–Harlan Ellison

Credit: Doug Savage. Click image for link.

Wow.  He got that right.  The latter seems particularly abundant these days;  on a Monday morning during election season I have no patience for it.  What is dumber, the idiot political wonks who put out all the attack ads, or the few remaining idiot voters who actually pay attention to them?   I’ll vote for the genius who promises to start the work week on Tuesday!  (I’m not in education or government or banking–I have to work on Columbus Day.)  Check out my Google search terms post for more on stupidity.  🙂


Conjecture #3: The Future (Part One)

I Conjecture:  Every Possible Future Exists

Part One: The Post-Newtonian Wordview

“The Future ain’t what it used to be.”–Yogi Berra


Yogi, philosopher extraordinaire, deep in thought

Yogi was right. Literally.

He had absolutely no idea what he was talking about, but he was right nonetheless.  For the way we view the future is directly related to how we view physical reality. Ergo, as our understanding of physical reality changes, so changes how we think about the future.   An entire graduate level lecture could probably be based on this conjecture.  I’ll condense the basic idea to a few paragraphs.

Before Apple, the company, there was apple, the fruit.  And before that fateful day when one of those red orbs conked one Isaac Newton on the noggin, worldviews were simplistic and not generally  based on science.   They were mostly mystical or religious.  Supernatural forces ruled the world and what they had in store for mankind was up to them; it was not to be known by us.  But when the soon-to-be “Sir” Isaac set forth his rules of motion and gravity classical physics was born.  Every action had an equal and opposite reaction, every force and its interaction with mass was theoretically calculable, and therefore predictable.  Newton’s laws ruled physics, and indeed, most science based worldviews for nearly 250 years.

Then two guys named Einstein and Planck came along and screwed up the whole thing.  They were followed by the likes of Heisenberg and Bohr and Schrodinger, who threw the monkey wrenches of quantum mechanics, and most disturbingly, quantum uncertainty, into the mechanisms of physics.  Nothing was ever the same again.**

Just how did these 20th century scientific revolutions, along with chaos and complexity theories, alter the Newtonian worldview?

The Newtonian worldview was deterministic, the post-Newtonian worldview is not.  It was theorized, under Newton’s classical laws, that if one could know the position and momentum of every particle of matter and energy in the universe, then one could know everything that has ever happened and could predict everything that ever would happen in the future.   Quantum mechanics and uncertainty skewered that notion; it killed it stone dead.  As explained in my Quantum Weirdness primers, it is not possible to simultaneously know the exact position and momentum of quantum objects, and interactions of quanta with their environment are only calculable as probabilities. 

In other words, the Newtonian worldview asserted that we could calculate exactly where any particle of matter or energy would be at any time.  The post-Newtonian worldview states that we can only calculate the probability of finding it in a given position at a given time.  The disconcerting part of that last statement is the “finding” part.  For it asserts exactly that, the probability of finding it if we look for it; it does not predict where it is, for until we look it is effectively in every possible position at once.

How does this affect our view of the future and my conjecture that every possible future exists?  In the Newtonian worldview, there is no free will; everything is determined by the existing state of the universe and there is therefore only one possible future.  That would be the one that follows from applying Newton’s laws to the current state of every bit of matter and energy in the universe.  But in the post-Newtonian world, those rules do not work on a quantum level.  Position and momentum are uncertain and results of interactions can only be stated as probabilities.  In a non-deterministic world, free will is enabled and the totality of the future is unpredictable no matter how much data we have to crunch.

Does this future exist?

OK.  Many futures are possible.  But how can I assert that every possible future exists?   I’ll take that up in Part Two of this conjecture.

**It should be noted that while Albert  Einstein, along with Max Planck, laid the foundations of quantum mechanics, he never believed its predictions of uncertainty and randomness.  Perhaps his most famous quotation, “god does not play dice,” refers to this very matter.  He spent much of the last thirty years of his life attempting to find a deeper meaning–hidden variables–that would give the lie to these notions.  He failed and was ultimately proven wrong.  More about this in a future conjecture.


October 2: Four Birthdays

“There is still no cure for the common birthday.”–John Glenn

We celebrate four birthdays today–er, at least I do.  One is fictional, two historical and one hysterical (in more than one sense of the word).

Charles “Charlie” “Chuck” Brown,  b. Oct 2, 1950

Charlie Brown, b. Oct 2, 1950

“Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you’re the Charlie Brownest.”–Linus

It was 62 years ago today that good ‘ol Charlie Brown made his first appearance in a syndicated cartoon.  All of seven newspapers were visionary enough to pick up the start of what would become the most iconic series in the history of American comics.  If Charles Schulz was writing today for the benefit of this blog, he might have used the term “multiverse” rather than “world” in the Linus quote above.  No matter, Linus, ever the philosopher, and his rancorous sister Lucy, are actually the characters in my two favorite Peanuts strips of all time.  In one Linus stares upward and ponders “Why is the sky blue.”  Lucy blasts out “BECAUSE IT ISN”T GREEN,” sending Linus tumbling over backward with his beloved blanket flying asunder.  In the other Linus turns tables on his evil sibling.  As she rants on and on about how crowded the world is becoming and that too many babies are being born with too many mouths to feed, Linus looks her straight in the eye and suggests, “So why don’t you leave?”

Mohandas Karamchand “Mahatma” Gandhi,  b. Oct. 2, 1869, d. Jan. 30, 1948

“Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this in flesh and blood ever walked upon this earth,” Albert Einstein describing Gandhi

Mohandas K. Gandhi, b. Oct 2, 1869

Few things in this life render me speechless.  Mohandas K. Gandhi is one of them. Glib as I may seem, I have no words to describe him.  Well, perhaps this.  If he had lived 2000 years ago, they would have named a religion after him. And, I might add, he would not have liked that one bit.

OK, maybe I’m not so speechless.  But the best description of the man and his life I can offer is to refer you to the 1982 film Gandhi. It won 8 academy awards including best picture, director, screen play and actor, the latter award going to Ben Kingsley for his masterful depiction of the man.  It was one of only two movies that ever left me speechless, the other was Schindler’s List.

Julius Henry “Groucho” Marx,  b. Oct 2, 1890, d. August 19, 1977

Groucho, b. October 2, 1890

“Quote me as saying I was mis-quoted,”–Groucho

Groucho…Gandhi…Charlie Brown…a cartoon character, a dead comic and a dead inspirational leader.  What do they have in common other than the same birthday?  They were all one of a kind;  the mold was broken after each one of them was made.  More importantly, they are collectively the inspiration for the “Ridiculous and Sublime” subtitle of this blog.  And as ridiculous as Groucho may have seemed, there was some amazing wisdom in many of his funny words.  “Marriage is an institution, and who wants to live in an institution?’  “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.” “Humor is reason gone mad.”  These are just a few of my favorites.  I’ll save the rest for future posts.

Mark Jay “What? Me Worry?” Sackler,  b. Oct 2, 1950

“Have you ever been told to think outside the box? My problem has always been, I can’t think inside of it.”–Me

Me, b. Oct 2, 1950. Picture taken on my 22nd birthday. If only I could still get away with acting this young.

In my case, I think they broke the mold before they made me. And while I’ve been called worse things than the sobriquet I gave myself above, I’m pretty sure that boring isn’t one of them.  At any rate, the three colossal  personalities profiled above represent a huge inspiration for this blog and for how I live my life. I hope they also inspire you a lot, even as I strive to inspire you a little.  As I contemplate another year shot to hell, I thank all of you who follow me here and put up with my own special brand of insanity.

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