An Enjoyable exchange with my oldest daughter
Me: Oh, you’re right. I stand corrected.
Lauren: Dad, that’s two times today you’ve stood corrected.
Me: No, it’s three times.
Lauren: No, it was only two!
Me: See? That makes three. I told you so.
Look before you leap
Growing older has certain advantages. One accumulates some practical wisdom, and with any luck, this more than offsets the loss of creativity and virility that aging brings, at least for awhile. For example, suppose you’re walking in a public place, you need to fart, but you’re not sure if anyone is behind you. One approach is to fart, then look behind you to see if anyone heard. It’s much better to look first, and then pass gas if the coast is clear.
In non-cooperative game theory, a “dominated strategy” is a plan of action, say plan A, that is worse than some other plan, say plan B, in the following sense: plan B leads to an outcome that is at least as good as the outcome from plan A in every possible situation, and in at least one situation, plan B leads to a strictly better outcome. On game-theoretic grounds, a dominated strategy should never be used. In the above description, it would be foolish to use plan A, when one could use plan B instead.
So, in the parlance of game theory, the “fart first, check later” approach is dominated by the “check first, fart later” one. Specifically, if there’s no one behind you, then it doesn’t matter which approach you take. But in case there is someone behind you, the “fart first, check later” approach is inferior. Not only is there the possibility that someone might be able to locate the origin of the fart by sound, but by turning around, you’ve essentially admitted guilt. Actually, this observation occurred to me just tonight as I was leaving the grocery store. I won’t say how it worked out.
Dwindling in America
I’ve noticed something as I’ve bought clothes (particularly, shirts) over the years. When I was in college, I used to buy large shirts. At some point in my thirties, these started to become too baggy. By my late thirties or early forties (I’m a slow learner), I finally started buying medium shirts. Now in my late forties, medium shirts are too big, and I’ve started buying small shirts. You might think that I’ve lost weight, but that would be wrong: I’m the same weight I was in college. This is the sort of mundane observation about life that absolutely demands close scientific scrutiny. I’ve pondered this and come up with several possible explanations, all of which are probably true to an extent. First, back in the 80’s, looser fitting clothes were in fashion, whereas now I prefer tighter fitting clothes. Second, although I’m the same weight, there has admittedly been some reallocation over the years, as I’ve gone from a 28″ waist to 31″. (In fact, I was recently confronted with photographic validation of this theory.) But, honestly, I can see these two explanation contributing to a decrease of at most one shirt size. The other explanation is the McDonalds effect: shirts are bigger, because Americans are inflating like balloons. A table available from the NIH indicates that in the early eighties, about 35% of American adults were just overweight (not obese), and about 15% were obese. By 2000, the percentage of just overweight American adults was the same, but the percentage of obese had increased to 35%, for a total of 70% of American adults who can only see their feet by looking in a mirror.
By the way–and I would like the US men’s clothing industry to please take note of this–go ahead and try to find a decent men’s small shirt! For some reason, large and extra large shirts are plentiful, but try to find the shirt you like in a small size and you’re screwed. This is another puzzle that deserves explanation. Why would clothing stores systematically overstock one size, while understocking another? I suspect collusion between McDonald’s and The Gap, but I need to think about this more.
When I’m checking out at the grocery story, the check out person almost always asks, “Did you find everything alright?” I mumble, “Sure,” and I wonder whether anyone ever says, “No, I actually couldn’t find organic mini-waffles that have been in the same place for years but have disappeared from your shelves for no apparent reason.” I mean, if you were going to ask for help finding something, you probably wouldn’t wait until you were buying your groceries to ask about it. Yeah, they’re probably told to ask that question to convince the customers that the store really cares about us, but I’d prefer it if they just gave me a red balloon. I guess it’s better than getting a hug from the check out person. I do have to admit that those missing mini-waffles really bug me.
Throwing down the glove
I’ve noticed a trend in the food service sector (especially faster food) that workers are commonly wearing thin plastic gloves, presumably to increase the cleanliness of the food preparation area. But I’ve never seen one of these people change gloves. Of course, this means that they might as well be bare-handed, so what’s the point? Obviously, the food service industry just wants to create the impression that the preparation process is hygienic. Perception is everything, you know.