Time Out: Remembering My Dad on Father’s Day

“It doesn’t matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was.”–Anne Sexton

Albert Allen Sackler
October 8, 1919-April 27,2012

The word serendipity usually conjures up images of inventors or scientists shouting “eureka” when they stumble upon some unexpected discovery.  But serendipity–the so-called happy accident–has its place in art and life as well. On this second father’s day without my beloved dad, here is a story of fond remembrance that might make you smile.

It was the fall of 1967 and my father had just installed some custom cabinetry in our large family den.  It was state of the art for the era: bookshelves, bar and a media center with a stereo and a color TV, the latter which he assembled himself from a Heathkit.  He was, after all, an electrical engineer.  What he never was, before or since, was an artist.  But he was about to become one for just a brief shining moment.

Overspray #1

The bar consisted of a fold down counter which revealed the spirits in the compartment behind it, and above it a cabinet with doors for glassware.  The doors had clear plexiglass window panels, which somehow did not suit my mother’s taste.  My father dutifully removed them to the basement, where he proceeded to spray paint them bright, solid colors.  He replaced the panels, and was prepared to discard the plywood square that had been the drop cloth for the paint job.   But our neighbor, physician and author Jack Shiller, just happened to stop by and call a halt to the demolition.

“Don’t throw that out!”  Dr. Shiller exclaimed


“Put a frame around it!”

He did.  And he entered it in a local art show.   And it won an honorable mention prize; boy, were the judges pissed when they found out the story behind it.

Serendipity or not, I’m glad he was my dad and will love him forever.

Happy Father’s Day to all.  Be sure to hug your dad if he’s still alive.


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


“Women marry men hoping they will change. Men marry women hoping they will not. So each is inevitably disappointed.”– Albert Einstein

Copyright Used by permission.

Hmmm.  Ol’ Albert may have known more about everyday life then he is commonly given credit for.  After 34-years, my wife still hasn’t learned this lesson.  She is still trying to change me.  I keep telling her to leave me alone as I am a finished product;  I couldn’t possibly get any worse.

%d bloggers like this: