We were driving down a busy two-lane surface street in Portland, Oregon. We were in the left lane. A few blocks away we would need to make a right turn in order to reach our destination which was, ostensibly, the ultimate goal of the expedition.
You can probably see where this is going. Kudos to me. I have done my job as a writer. This is called foreshadowing.
Everyone in the right lane was somehow able to sense my need and aggressively squeezed together like sardines in a can. It was truly something to behold.
Dammit, I thought angrily to myself. I knew I should have changed lanes when that open spot presented itself 42 miles back. Who knew that would be my one and only opportunity? But that’s the way this shit works.
I could have done what everyone else does and slammed on my brakes while nudging to the right daring everyone to miss me but that’s not my way. I like to be different. I like the path not taken.
In this case that was a few blocks further on down the road. And that’s where this adventure really begins.
What do you call it when the people who are supposed to save the day, the so-called “experts,” fail to perform when the chips are down? There has got to be a terminology for that. For now, I’m going to go with the phrase “expert failure” or EF.
Example: “Yup. Things certainly went to shit. They EF’d up.”
In the excellent book Jurassic Park the character Ian Malcolm, a mathematician specializing in “chaos theory,” correctly predicts the failed hubris of the undertaking. (Also in the book the character John Hammond, the visionary, is ironically eaten by his creations. That tasty tidbit didn’t make it into the movie.) The genius of Michael Crichton’s book has nothing to do with dinosaurs. As Wikipedia puts it, the story is a “metaphor of collapse.”
Expert failure works like this:
- Only we are brilliant enough to design and breed dinosaurs. You are not brilliant by a long shot. Oops. The dinosaurs got out. Bad shit happens. Our bad.
- A virus enters the country. The hospitals and specialists we depend on for our very lives fail to follow basic protocols. (In unrelated news, studies have shown that 10 to 80 percent of ICU doctors fail to engage in sanitary hand washing as directed. Because, of course, they know better.)
- A politician says, “Doing ABC will lead to XYZ.” When that doesn’t happen, he adds, “Obviously we need a lot more of ABC. We have to give my policies a chance to work.”
- Your financial consultant advises you to invest heavily in Guru Of Negativity (ticker: GON) holdings and you lose your shirt.
- A baseball teams spends $50 million on a single player (cutting other players from the team to make this possible). Later, in game seven of the World Series, bottom of ninth, two outs, full count, bases loaded, trailing by one run the fellow whiffs flailingly at three straight pitches in the dirt and strikes out.
That last example is my personal favorite because I could have easily matched that performance for at least half price. Show me the money!
What else have experts gotten wrong? FEMA? Vietnam? The financial crisis? Mortgage-backed securities? Bridges? Stampedes at religious gatherings? Platforms at state fairs? Fires in disco clubs? Interfering in the civil wars of other countries?
The list is long and distinguished.
So now we look to experts to clean up the messes that were created by the same and/or previous experts. I’m no expert but I say that sucks. When you’re stuck on your the tippy-top of your roof and the water is lapping at your toes, just remember this: There is no expert correction fairy who will swoop in and save your bacon.
Ultimately, no matter what the experts would like you to believe, you’re on your own.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to change into my baseball uniform. You can depend on me.
Things fall apart. The center does not hold. –Yeats
How They’re Gaming Yelp
Never underestimate the human desire to game systems. Why expend actual effort when you can “win” by cheating? Because, to the victor go the spoils. Today I’d like to explain one way that business owners go about gaming their reviews.
So there’s this thing called Yelp. They claim to be generally positive system but the dictionary definition of the word “yelp” is: “a short sharp cry, esp. of pain or alarm.” Yeah, baby. Those are my kind of reviews. Let’s go negative and keep it that way. Don’t believe me? Look it up in your own dictionary.
I went to the trendy meat cafe and they served me an elk burger that was oozing blood. That’s how I earned “connoisseur of raw elk meat” on my Twitter profile! And, oh yeah, you better believe I yelped it as soon as I got home.
My understanding is that Yelp frowns on business owners asking for reviews. That’s bad form in a reputation system that’s supposedly driven from a wellspring of organic experiences from normal people like you and me. Normal! Yeah, right.
Here’s how the gaming works:
You place an order on a website. A few days or weeks later you receive a survey request. “How did we do on your recent order?” and what not.
You’ll likely be given the ability to enter some comments and provide a rating. If you give them a good rating, they’ll say thanks and provide a clickable link to the Yelp website where you can enter a review. If you give a bad rating, they only say thanks. No linky for you.
Voila! It’s as simple as that. The system just got gamed. The preliminary survey is nothing more than a sieve to sort the good eggs from the bad. The good eggs are passed along to Yelp and the bad eggs go down the chute. You might think that businesses appreciate negative feedback most of all because that’s vital information to help them improve. You’d be wrong. Why waste time on that shit when you can be gaming the system instead?
This is just one small example of gaming. People in the world of business spend more time thinking about stuff like this than they do on actual products and services. And they’re really good at it. That’s ingenuity.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to nosh on some raw elk. RAWR!
I’m sitting here writing this post in my Kmart underwear … and nothing else. Yes, even though Kmart sucks. Maybe because of it. I gotta be me. We all know how much I enjoy humiliation.
I don’t know much and what I do know seems to be shrinking on an almost daily basis. My existence is increasingly consumed by thoughts regarding my sanity.
For those keeping track the opening paragraph was “underwear” and the follow-up paragraph was “shrinkage.” This is known as a progression of ideas. I’m building up to something. You are wise to still be reading this.
Aside from all that, there seems to be something else going on.
My rate of “Rain Man” moments seems to be on the rise. There’s been an uptick in momentia, if you will.
No, we decidedly do not refer to them as “senior moments.” Despite being a grumpy grandpa and standing on my lawn and yelling at kids, I’m not ready for that schtick just yet. Not while I’m still young and in my prime.
Besides, I’m an excellent driver.
Then I was responsible for a car accident after going to the pharmacy to pick up my “meds.” Oh, shit. Did I just use the word “meds?” This is the end.
So yeah, that happened.
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Growth Of Thorns
I used to think any form of growth was unsustainable. Just like a perpetual motion machine it’s one of those things that’s impossible. (One of my favorite words.) Then, just now, sitting here, one of my brain cells did something. (It can happen.) For lack of any originality on my part let’s call it my latest theory, k?
Tom’s Theory #42 – Societal Asshole Leech Theory (SALT)
The percentage of leech-based humans is growing over time. Or, the more advanced a civilization the higher the amount of leechage.
As far as we know, there is no causal relationship with the number of pirates known to exist, but admittedly further testing is required. This is a work in progress. (I was on a break.)
98% of all email is spam. Of those messages, 98% attempt to deceive or infect. (The rest merely sell growth products like Viagra, the greatest achievement of our civilization and, dare I say, the entire universe and space-time continuum.) My web server is probed and attacked by cyber-terrorists (mostly from China and Russia) 36 hours a day. There’s an entire subset of humanity that does not have jobs and produces nothing of value yet still has food, shelter, cigarettes, pets, cars, smartphones and internet access.
Is this amount of leechage really on the rise or is it merely my touchy empirical perceptions?
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Magic: The Blathering
You’ll have to excuse the faltering nature of this post: My Facebook status is currently “Low on Mana.”
You know I like to think the Big Thoughts (har) and these mental excitations decidedly do not lead to good vibrations. In fact, more often than not, they lead to impasse.
Most people, I hear tell, have an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. Not me. I have a miniaturized and hovering Gandalf the Grey and he continually yells, “You shall not impasse!” For some reason, though, that’s not all that helpful.
What sort of big thoughts, you ask, oh helpful reader? Just wee trifling matters. Is climate change real and impacted by human behavior? Do vaccines kill my kids? Should girls be allowed to show a little shoulder in their high school yearbook photos? Will a little non-disclosed GMO kill me? Is it acceptable to harvest organs from poor people? Would raising minimum wage help or hurt the economy? Will we as a society literally swallow petroleum until it kills us? Does being armed to the teeth make society safer or more dangerous? Should politicians and people advertising products have to tell the truth? Does Earth orbit the sun or does the entire universe orbit the Earth? Does trickle-down economics represent the overall best solution for everyone? Why does Hulu Plus have commercials if there’s a monthly fee? Why does a good portion of the people on this planet feel it is acceptable for a 50-year-old man to marry a 12-year-old girl? Does Obamacare make our nation stronger or weaker?
It should be obvious my wee little brain is incapable of grappling with weighty issues like these (and many, many more). What to do? What to do?
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