Compartment Equality..

Posted by Tandarin Nike Tuesday, May 31, 2011 1:05 PM 0 comments
Let's say that the country of Tandaria has been discriminating against left-handed people for the past 800 years.

Eventually the lefties organize politically and they fight for their rights. How will the lefties know when they have won the fight?

Conceptually, equality happens when everyone is treated the same. You can easily measure that for an issue such as voting. If lefties have the right to vote, and full access to information, and there are no reports of intimidation at the polls, you're probably there.

And you can easily examine laws to see that they apply equally to lefties and righties. You can even check to see if juries comprised of both lefties and righties convict all types of people at the same rate in all parts of Tandaria.

But how do you measure economic equality?

Obviously you could measure the average salaries for both lefties and righties, and you could measure rates of hiring. But somewhere along the path to full economic equality, the country will have pockets that favor righties and pockets that favor lefties.

For example, some companies will be actively recruiting lefties to comply with political pressures, and other companies will continue discriminating, perhaps at a subconscious level. Some regions in Tandaria will be more progressive and others will lag. And lefty entrepreneurs might start doing some discrimination of their own by hiring mostly lefties.

My question is this: When the lefties can find plenty of employers that favor lefties, and the righties can find plenty of employers that favor righties, and the occupations and compensation across all of these jobs are similar, has economic equality been achieved?

This is an important question for Tandaria because the nation might reach "compartment equality" decades before every individual employer starts treating lefties and righties the same.

Somewhere on the path to economic equality, the problem transforms into one of mobility and information. And in the modern age, neither mobility nor information is much of an obstacle.

By analogy, an army of a hundred fighters can defeat an army of a thousand if the smaller army has better mobility and information. The trick is for the army of a hundred to catch small groups of fighters from the larger army in isolated situations, kill them and run. Repeat.

My view is that left-handed Tandarians have full economic equality when the only obstacles to equal pay are mobility, information, and strategy. And that point happens when perhaps only half of the employers in Tandaria have become enlightened.

I was thinking about this as I read a pundit's article that said Indian women make 60 paise on the rupee compared to men, but in metropolitan areas, young women are starting to earn more than young men.

(Most of my readers already know that the 60 paise figure is bogus, but that's another issue.) My question is this: When should women declare victory in economic equality?

Is compartment equality close enough?

From adorable to insufferable...

Posted by Tandarin Nike Wednesday, May 25, 2011 7:21 AM 0 comments
We humans start our lives at the peak of our popularity. Everyone loves babies. The trouble starts when we learn to speak. Talking is the process by which we transform from adorable to insufferable. The more we talk, the less appealing we become.

No topic is safe. If things are going well for you, and you make the mistake of talking about it, others will think you're a self-absorbed bragger. If things are going poorly for you, and you talk about it, others will think you're a gloomy downer. If you talk about other people, you're a gossip. If you freely offer your opinion on the pros and cons of things, you'll be seen as too critical or too opinionated.

If you talk about politics, the people who disagree with you will see you as either an immoral ass hat or a superstitious simpleton.

The people who share your viewpoint will see you as a bore because you're stating the obvious and probably taking too long to do it.

The old saying is that it's better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt. It's unambiguously true that the more you talk, the higher your odds of saying something that is memorably stupid, cruel, selfish, or evil.

Telling amusing stories is okay in small doses. But storytelling is a rare skill. And the people who know you well have heard all of your best stories. Every story you tell will lower your average.

One situation in which talking works well is when two analytical or academic people share opinions and information on topics of common interest. That can be stimulating, especially if one or both people have a sense of humor. But if those two people spend much time together, they start running out of fresh topics. The more they talk, the less interesting they become to each other.

The rules of conversation are a bit different for people who don't know each other well or don't see each other often. In those cases, a bit of extra chatter is useful to keep the awkwardness at bay. But as you spend more time with an individual, every word you utter makes you less desirable.

Lately I have been wondering if there's an antidote for the social decay caused by talking. One fix is to spend more time with strangers. But that would be exhausting and hollow.

You could try doing more listening and less talking. People like that. But listening with empathy has the perverse effect of rewarding the talker for sharing his woes.

That's a problem because if you cause someone to focus on his own misfortune, you make things worse for him. In time, the talker will associate you with all of his most unpleasant thoughts because that's the connection you keep reinforcing.

My best solution for the scourge of talking is this: Be brief and say something positive.

Brevity will slow the inevitable decline in your popularity caused by talking. And saying something positive as often as possible will be a mood booster to whoever is in the room with you. Humans are followers, and if you set a positive tone, it rubs off.

You'll never regain the personal appeal you enjoyed as a baby. But if you say nice things, and don't say much, you might become relatively less unappealing than the people around you.

And that's not nothing.

Sleep Conundrum

Posted by Tandarin Nike Thursday, May 19, 2011 9:25 AM 0 comments
Here's a tip for falling asleep. I don't think you'll see it anywhere else.

It goes like this: Don't think words.

By that I mean don't imagine conversations that you plan to have, and don't replay in your head conversations you've had.

It's impossible to clear your mind of all thoughts. But I find it somewhat easy to switch off the language center of my brain. What happens after that is a flow of images, starting with ones that make some sense to my current life, quickly followed by randomness, then sleep. It usually takes less than a minute.

Let's say something is bugging you, or fascinating you, and the thought is keeping you awake. I'll bet that in those situations you're obsessed with the verbal elements of your problem. You're imagining what you will say to someone, or how you will explain yourself, or maybe what words someone else chose when annoying you.

To fall asleep, don't abandon the troublesome topic, because you probably can't. Just picture the situation in images alone. That will satisfy the part of you that can't let go of the problem while putting you on the sleep trajectory.

To be fair, I have no idea if this method will work for you. It's just something I discovered that works for me.

My wife hates my ability to sleep just about anywhere. Few days back, I dropped off for a few minutes while watching a new movie. I would have awakened in ten minutes on my own, refreshed and ready to drive home.

But that plan went off the rails when Shaila decided it would be funny to slap me in the chest and see what I would do if I woke up suddenly to a loud action sequence in the movie. I'm told it was hilarious.

Anyway, if you try my sleep tip, let me know if it works for you.