Santa: Outsourced

No letter back from Santa. Since I dropped it in my work outbox, I'm guessing it was probably even stamped. What a crock!

Dear North Pole, Alaska (and the surrounding regions):
You suck in comparison to your classmates of yesteryear.

Dear Santa:
Why do you no longer exist?

I hate Xmas,


Efficiency Things to Death

Thinking about and acting upon efficiency is probably my nerdiest of hobbies. I dabble in efficiency so much that I tend to "efficiency things to death." Although I plan to change the world with it someday, until that day, I never said that I was good at it yet...

Reflecting on my past efficient acts, I've noticed that more often than not I cause more harm than good. Efficiency is measured by the ratio of an output (job, product, result) to the amount energy (calories, time, money, heat) put in to create that output. Thus, the higher the ratio the more efficient the process:

  • higher output with same input

  • same output with lower input

  • higher output with lower input
For Example:
I have eaten oatmeal every morning for 10+ years and counting. After entering "1:00" minute on the microwave for the thousandth time, I wondered how long the zero button would last until I wore it out. From then on I entered "60" seconds - same result with 1/2 the amount of wear on the zero button. This also led me to wonder how much time I would save over a lifetime of eating my morning oats by pushing one less button. One-stop shop for efficiency!

Why stop there? Knowing that everyone else in the household used the zero button more than their fair share, I decided to eliminate zero from my microwave routine altogether. I would enter "61" seconds. This was more efficient yet, right?

Later, upping the ante even more to entering "66." I could double-tap the "6" button faster than hitting "6" then "1" (not drastically affecting my meal's consistency). So I was saving optimal button pushing time and wearing an underutilized button.

And then my parents remodeled the kitchen and replaced the microwave... All of my long-term button-wear planning had been lost. This caused me to contemplate my earlier mission. I still had contributed to efficiency..., or had I? While on the surface I had saved a billionth of a second with the new double-tap method, I was actually wasting much more than I had imagined. The waste:

  • 6 additional seconds (minus a billionth of a second) awaiting plump oats

  • 6 seconds of additional microwave power that was no value added (oatmeal has equal nutritional value whether hot or cold)

  • 6 more seconds of microwave "drying" (I prefer it on the softer side)

  • The brain power (calories) used contemplating this idea, which inevitably wasted more
My current microwave has the option of pushing "Start," which has 1 minute as a pre-programmed. One button operation for perfect oatmeal!

The problem was that I unknowingly shifted my focus to a specific goal. Although I thought I was maintaining the initial goal to create efficiency, what actually happened is that each time I got more and more specific, my goal also got more and more specific. Instead of my goal continuing to reduce overall time, it ended up being to reduce button pushing time. In conclusion, when working toward efficiency, often take a step back to look at the big picture. It's all too easy to get caught up in one aspect of efficiency without taking in to account its affects.

Other examples:
  • Not braking on the highway as much, in order to save gas, will not allow other motorists to be warned that you are slowing. Thus causing an accordion effect that ultimately wastes more gas among all involved parties.
  • Wearing a fuel belt in a race, in order to save time at a water stop, will save time in respect to changing course to get water, but will waste more time overall since it's extra weight being carried the entire race, which slows one's pace.

*Inspired by: http://adventuresinmissingthepoint.wordpress.com/2008/12/12/what-about-the-remaining-20-from-the-other-80/