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Column Archives

July 2009: With 99.99% Uncertainty

Posted on July 28, 2009 at 6:50 PM

According to the latest polls, the President?s approval rating is at about 59%. Pundits claim that this is considered "still quite good," and that anything over 50% is adequate for a sitting president.

How I wish my teachers used this methodology when I was in school and anything below 65% was considered failing.

I recall when I took my first test in that dreaded geometry class and earned a big, fat, red "F" on my paper, as though I couldn?t read it if it was in blue or black ink.

"How can that be?" I protested.

"You got 63% on the test," my teacher explained. "That?s an "F."

"I could have stayed in bed today and watched I Love Lucy and earned an "F," I argued. "Don?t I get at least a D- for showing up?"

Despite his inflated left-brain, he failed to see my logic.

But I think there are people who get credit for just showing up. Like baseball players. They get up to bat and if they manage to get a hit just 1/3 of the time they are considered phenomenal. Some Ty Cobb guy had a .366 batting average and has been practically canonized. Can you imagine only putting eyes on every third Peep at the factory and getting employee of the year?

We?re constantly assigning contradictory scores and arbitrary numbers to behavior and performance in determining who?s the best. A perfect score in gymnastics is a "10," while first place in a race is #1. A great hockey game final score is 2-1, while a basketball game is 102-101. The scoring in tennis is Love, 15, 30, 40, game! Was the Brit who invented the game just pulling our Yankee legs or was he trying to keep the riff-raff off the courts by avoiding a simple 0, 1, 2, 3, game?

Traditionally in determining grade point averages, they used the following formula: A=4, B=3, C=2, D=1 and F=0. A 4.0 was it. The top, the best, the valedictorian. Now, somehow a secret committee of some kind decided that kids can earn more than 4.0 and actually end up with 5.0. To paraphrase Dr. Spencer Johnson, "Who moved my scale?!"

I don?t know about you, but I?m thinking that angle is obtuse. Either you?re the best or you?re not. Is there now a "bestest" category? Will we have to change the old measure of optimism to "Is the glass half-empty, half-full or only a fraction of the way towards nirvana?"

It?s like people who tell you they give 150% to their children or promise to back you up "110%" You may as well say, "Don?t you worry, if you get sick and need a kidney, I?ll give you three of mine."

A doctor loses 2 out of 3 of his patients and he?s having lunch with Bernie Madoff for the rest of his life. A football player spends less than an hour doing his job each week and he gets a Heisman trophy. Something doesn?t add up.

But, maybe I?m behind the times. Perhaps we should all try this alternate methodology at least once. Call your boss today and say, "I?m half way there and intend to give you 175%, working half days, showing up half-cocked 2 out of 5 days this week. Just let me know where and when to pick up my inscribed plaque."

I predict with 142% accuracy that you will get something in writing. It won?t be in red, but a lighter shade no doubt.

And as for our President, in my own scale ranging from "The Messiah has come" to "Pack the idiot?s bags right now!" I?d say he?s doing "just fine."

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