The Arithmatic of Life and Death

George Shaffner – NOTES

Refugees From Math – ‘. . . and the different branches of arithmetic – Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.’ – Lewis Carroll [REF]

Multiple Choices – ‘It’s not easy being green’ – Kermit The Frog [REF]

You Can’[t] Be Anything You Want – ‘Not every soil will bear all things’

Alice’s Restaurant’- is not real life. You can’t be anything you want. It’s not a right guaranteed in the Constitution.

The Value of Education – ‘Educated men are as superior to uneducated men as the living are to the dead’ – Aristotle [REF]

The Sum of All Decisions – ‘When you come to a fork in the road, take it.’ – Yogi Berra [REF]

The Value of Being Stupid – ‘You pays your money and takes your choice’ – Punch [REF]

Much advertising is dedicated to inducing the consumer into an emotional , rather that informed, decision

1- Icon association – which means that a famous person, by virtue of his or her willingness to promote a specific product, therefor implies its superiority. Of course, the Icon is usually paid large sums of money to deliver this message, which may induce Icon Bias.

2- Emotional Appeal – wherein the promoter of the product equates something of emotional importance to the purchase decision: Fashion = belonging or coolness or sex – Cosmetics = love or sex – Food = approval or sex – Cars = envy, stature, freedom or sex

3-Implied Superiority – In complex markets, almost any producer can find some facet of its product , even if it is singular and somewhat unimportant, which is superior to at least one highly regarded competitor. The manufacturer will then use the promotion of this relative superiority as a basis upon which to imply general superiority of the entire product. [This is called generalizing from the particular, which is a logical fallacy and , therefor, endlessly employed by both business and Government]

4- Free Goodies – with the exception of new product introductions, whoever has the most product has to give away the most stuff so that people will buy it. The giveaways, of course are worth a lot less than the cost of the product. Otherwise, it would be cheaper to throw the product away if it couldn’t be sold.

The Gift of Fallibility – ‘Love truth, but pardon error.’ – Voltaire [REF]

The Case For Smoking – ‘HABIT [n] – A shackle for the free’ – Ambrose Bierce [REF]

The Odds of Getting Caught – ‘But form each crime are born bullets that will one day seek out from you where the heart lies.’ – Pablo Neruda [REF]

Arithmetic is a hard master. It will punish anyone who believes that a pattern of mistakes or unnecessary risks is a series of isolated one-time occurrences. Graveyards are full if dead people who thought they could make a career out of repetitive stupidity. Jails are full of living people, who thought they could make a career out if crime. Streets are full of unemployed people who thought they could make a career out of not working – With repetition, the odds of getting caught always move rapidly towards certainty. It is a Law – there are no exceptions, including you.

Division of Labor – ‘O, how full of briers is this working-day world!’ – William Shakespeare [REF]

Why You Must Consume – ‘The engine which drives enterprise is not Thrift, but Profit’ – John Maynard Keynes [REF]

Focus on Priorities – ‘The heavens themselves, the planets, and this centre Observe degree, priority and place. . .’ – William Shakespeare [REF]

Faced with an unknown quantity of randomly arriving work, most people resort to one of three methods of work organization:

1 – They attempt to complete each task in the order in which it arrives – [called FIFO in industry argot, First in – First out]

2 – In order to minimize the number of tasks left in the ‘In’ basket at the end of the day, they do the easiest ones first

3 – Because the hardest tasks are the most difficult to predict and complete, they get them out of the way first.

Rules of Thumb – ‘Any excuse will serve a tyrant’ – Aesop [REF]

Rules of Thumb are guidelines people invent to explain phenomena that they can not prove.

Equalizing Opportunity – ‘. . . a fair chance in the race of life’ – Abraham Lincoln [REF][REF]

Rules of Thumb

1 – Rules of Thumb like all generalities, should be applied with care.

2- That the ‘Star’ system may be inferior to equalizing opportunity in many cases.

3 – That, even in an environment of equalized opportunity, the best still appear to be twice as productive as the rest – excluding considerations for cost.

Prima Donna Effect – ‘Do you know that all the great work of the world is done through me?’ – Carl Sandberg [REF]

Teamwork – ‘We must hang together, or most assuredly we will hang separately’ – Benjamin Franklin [REF]

Why There Are Meetings – ‘All errors of consequence require collaboration’ – Julian Date [REF]

On Meetings

1 – An agenda is published at least one day before every meeting –

2 – Since a ten-minute delay caused by a thoughtless team member could result in seventy minutes of lost productivity and no small amount of irritation – Every team member arrives on time –

3 – Every attendee sticks to the agenda –

4 – The meetings are concluded on time


Common Cause – ‘In every age and clime we see: Two of a trade can never agree’ – John Gay [REF]

Consensus at Work – ‘Consensus is the antidote for leadership’ – Julian Date [REF]

MB(U[nobtainable])O – Management By Objective – ‘The bow too tensely strung is easily broken’ – Publilius Syrus [REF]

The Mystery of Middle Management – ‘Man is by nature a political animal’ – Aristotle [REF]


Calculating Behavior – ‘None of us really understands what’s going on with all these numbers’ – David Stockman [REF]on the 1981 [US] Federal Budget

Figures Don’t Lie. . . – ‘Mathematics may be defined as the subject in which we never know what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true’ – Bertrand Russell [REF]

The Duke of Pork – ‘A billion here, A billion there, and pretty soon you are talking about real money’ – Everett Dirksen [REF]

The National Debt – ‘Politics is the distance between what makes sense and what gets done’ – Julian Date [REF]

Personal Debt – ‘Let us be happy and live within our means, even if we borrow money to do it with’ – Charles Farrar Browne [REF]

Investing Young – ‘Wealth has its advantages, and the case to the contrary, although often made, has never proved widely persuasive’ – John Kenneth Galbraith [REF]

Gambling – ‘Fattenin’ hogs ain’t in luck’ – Joel Chandler Harris

Streaks and the Law of Averages – ‘I feel like a fugitive from the Law of Averages’ – Bill Mauldin [REF]

Coincidence – ‘There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion’ – Francis Bacon [REF][REF]

The PLLO [Permanent Left Lane Occupants] – Yet in my walks it seems to me, the Grace of God is a courtesy – Hilaire Belloc [REF]

The Tail-gater’s Advantage – ‘As if there were safety in stupidity alone’ – Henry David Thoreau [REF]

Dark Matters – ‘There are more things on heaven and earth Horatio, that are dreamt of in your philosophy’ – William Shakespeare [REF]

Death by Misadventure – ‘Carriages without horses shall go, and accidents fill the world with woe’ – UKN [REF]

Life Expectancy – ‘Hello darkness my old friend. I’ve come to talk to you again’ [REF] – Paul Simon

The Preservation of Prejudice – ‘Rancor is the outpouring of a feeling of inferiority’ – Jose Ortega Y Gasset [REF]

A Trick of Perspective – For now we see through the glass darkly: but then face to face [REF] – Corinthians 13:12

The Importance of Small Infinities – To see the world in a grain of sand: And Heaven in a wild flower: Hold infinity in the palm of your hand: and eternity in an hour – William Blake [REF]

Life after Death – ‘If a man has a strong faith he can indulge in the luxury of skepticism’ – Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzche [REF]

The Rule of Aways More

Are We Alone – ‘I don’t believe there’s no such person’ – Charles Dickens [REF]

A Message from Rapa Nui – ‘I shall have more to say when I am dead’ – Edward Arlington Robinson [REF]

After Math: Why More Things Go Wrong – ‘Of all human ills, greatest is fortune’s wayward tyranny’ – Sophocles [REF]


That each of us is one and the rest are many

That now is infinitely short and the future is infinitely long

That a single act of reason is more valuable than a thousand acts of ignorance

Intelligence is not just a gift, it’s a choice. Make it and evolve

– ISBN 0-345-42645-2 [REF]


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