09 March 2011

The Wallet to Entitlement Ratio

In the course of my many jobs, I've noted an intriguing mathematico-sociological phenomenon which I've dubbed The Wallet to Entitlement Ratio. Write this down, because it'll soon be textbook material in graduate-level sociology classes.

This ratio purports to predict any given customer's attitude relative to the service he expects from you, whether you work as a Starbucks barrista or a high-level investment advisor. Careful application of this ratio will allow you to tailor your approach to your customer. Not that it'll keep you out of trouble, but at least you'll know why you're in it.

Begin by covertly checking the size of your customer's wallet. (Note: It is not recommended that you actually handle your customer's physical wallet, as he or she is not likely to understand the scientific motives which drive your actions.) This will allow you to predict how far backward your customer will expect you bend.

The larger your customer's wallet, the greater the sense of entitlement he or she is likely to possess. After all, they've either worked hard within society's rules, or else they're darn good at manipulating the rules to their benefit. Either way, they know how to make the machine work, and they expect you (as a part of that machine) to work to their greatest advantage. Woe betide the lowly cog whose subversive grinding brings the machine to a halt!

Conversely, the smaller your customer's wallet, the lower the sense of entitlement he or she is likely to possess. Whether by birth or circumstance, this person is less skilled at operating the machinery to personal benefit (or, perhaps, has priorities at cross-purposes to making it all work out for Number One). Therefore, the smaller-walleted are less expectant that you're going to work all night to keep them happy. The rest of the machine doesn't, so why should you?

However, an intriguing phenomenon happens as the size of the wallet shrinks. At a certain point, expectations actually begin to rise in inverse proportion to the size of the wallet! The thinness of your customer's wallet begins to bother her. The system works so poorly for her that she begins to suspect the machine was unfairly built to crush her ambitions. And the smaller that wallet gets, the more convinced your customer becomes that the machine is to blame. Now, as a part of that cruel and unjust machine, you exist to be circumvented and subverted so your customer can secure what the system has unfairly denied her. Eventually, thievery and all manner of ill-doing is justified because your customer feels the system owes her; in other words, she now feels just as entitled to everything you've got as the guy with the fat wallet.

On the one hand, you've got the filthy rich who are stunned you don't exist to fulfill their wildest dreams; and on the other hand, you've got the desperately poor who are convinced part of your pie rightfully belongs to them anyway. And in the middle are the nice customers, the ones who aren't that poor or that rich, and consequently don't feel the world owes them a living.*

Observe this mathematical fact, graphed so scientifically that it must be true:

Observing this simple mathematical ratio will allow you to stay on your toes when you deal with your customers. In short, I have provided the definitive mathematical proof for Proverbs 30:8-9:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.

*Of course, there are always the rich and the poor who are actually pleasant to deal with, and the middlers who are real pains. In scientific circles, we call these people "outliers," which is a term for a collection of data points which don't fit our theory so we'll stick them a box and shove it in a forgotten corner of the dustiest warehouse where they can be safely ignored.

26 February 2011

Crispy Marriage

Over the years, several newlywed couples have approached me with the same question: "Nathan, we're so happy and comfortable with each other. How can we burn our marriage to such a degree of crispness that Hiroshima at Ground Zero will seem like a slightly over-powered tanning salon?"

Fortunately, this is not as difficult to achieve as you might imagine. I have personally used the following recipe on numerous occasions, with great success, to produce a perfectly-burnt marriage, to which my wife can readily attest. In my experience, following these simple steps will go a long way toward burning your marriage to a crisp. Good luck, and bon app├ętit!


5 c. memory (sticky)
1 oz. expectations (unrealistic and unexpressed)
1 pkg. spousal failure
2 T. pride
1 oz. Hollywood romances (optional)
3 c. silence
Sprig of blind self-righteousness


1. Prepare a sticky memory and set aside.

2. Combine expectations with spousal failure in a large bowl. Beat vigorously for several weeks until a tar-like consistency is achieved.

3. Add pride and continue to beat. Without pride, mixture may lose consistency due to the tendency of humility to shrink both expectations and spousal failure.

4. Stir in sticky memory and let sit in a dark, hidden place until desired taste of bitterness is achieved. If you wish, add Hollywood romances to enhance the flavor of disappointment.

5. Knead dough into a ball and coat with silence until the original ingredients are invisible. Outbursts may be substituted for silence, as long as they are unrelated to the main ingredients and direct attention away from the underlying mixture. Note: avoid open communication as this will expose ball to direct sunlight and may cause it to collapse.

6. Return mixture to a hidden place for as long as desired. The longer it's hidden, the more bitter the taste.

7. Serve with a garnish of blind self-righteousness at an opportune time, preferably upon the commitment of a spousal infraction so slight that the service of your mixture seems completely unwarranted. This will likely cause a defensive reaction from your spouse which will fortify the flavor of your self-righteous garnish.

8. When the meal is complete, do not dispose of the leftovers. Bury them in a dank hole and allow to fester. Dig up and combine with new ingredients at the next opportunity.

05 May 2009


There were geometrical forms for which an Euclid would scarcely find a name - cones of all degrees of irregularity and truncation, terraces of every sort of provocative disproportion, shafts with odd bulbous enlargements, broken columns in curious groups, and five-pointed or five-ridged arrangements of mad grotesqueness.

- At the Mountains of Madness, 1936
He said that the geometry of the dream-place he saw was abnormal, non-Euclidean, and loathsomely redolent of spheres and dimensions apart from ours.

- The Call of Cthulhu, 1928
So, “The Non-Euclidean Blog.” What in the name of Cthulhu does that mean? I’m glad you asked.

Author H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) believed Western civilization was headed in one direction—straight into the newly-patented vortex-flushing toilet bowl. From his vantage point, the Anglo-Saxon West was cheerfully wrapping itself in chains of dehumanizing progress while a rising tide of non-Anglos threatened to drown the only half-decent civilizaton on the planet. Meanwhile, the human race sat on a conveyor belt to nowhere, grinding along on the gears of a mindless universe that would sooner or later obliterate the accident we call humanity and scatter its dust on the cosmic winds.

Lovecraft pounded out story after story reflecting this bleak outlook on life, the universe, and everything. The thing is, his stuff was good.

Take, for instance, his personalization of a mechanistic and pitiless universe. A mindless cosmos we don’t understand and from which we’ll eventually perish? Eh, okay. Malevolent creatures from the stars, so much older and greater than us, so beyond our science, that glimpsing them or their reality invites insanity or death, and which slumber until the inevitable alignment of the stars unleashes them to reestablish their ancient dominion on Earth? Now you’ve got my attention.

This was Lovecraft’s genius. He took the abstract fears and paranoia of his time and place, and transformed them into concrete monstrosities against which we would be helpless when our time was up. Granted, he did it long-windedly and with more than a hint of racism—but he captured a generation’s fear of progress and ultimate extinction.

So what does this have to do with my blog’s title?

Well, a common theme in Lovecraft’s stories is the non-Euclidean geometry of neighboring realities. Characters who glimpse these parallel dimensions or stumble across ancient ruins built by its inhabitants are struck with the general wrongness of perspective. Walls connect without ever quite meeting. Doorways loom toward you and away from you at the same time. Domed ceilings curve, but somehow never stop curving—or do they ever start?

It’s enough to drive anyone batty.

Taking a chapter from Lovecraft, the bizarre little imp I call my sense of humor thought it would be hilarious to identify my blog as a place where perspective is always slightly askew, where things never quite add up, and which drives you crazy if you spend too much time there. Yep—I really am that much of a geek.

If you must have a semi-serious purpose for the title, you’ll find it in the reworked Lovecraft quote directly beneath the header. I believe the blogosphere is a tremendous tool for spreading and confirming ignorance, usually with the greatest of confidence. Blogger and reader alike need to remember that perspective can skew easily when you’re online, and that lines of thought don’t always run straight on the Internet.

Identifying my blog as a place where things aren’t quite right is my light-hearted way of reminding everyone—starting with myself—that all blogs should come with a surgeon general’s warning: “Product may contain lethal amounts of faulty logic and unwarranted dogma. Proceed with caution.”

01 May 2009


In the beginning was the blog, and the blog was called NateNotes, and the blogger was me. And lo, darkness was upon the face of the blog, for it had no readership.

And it came to pass that the blog gained a small but steady following after better and more popular blogs noticed it. And it was good.

But in the fullness of time, the blogger grew weary of NateNotes, and created a new blog, and called it Waterless Places. And the blog’s readership multiplied, and prospered. And lo, it was good.

But the blogger’s duties piled up, even unto the heavens. The blogger gained a wife, and seminary filled his days. And Waterless Places became a wasteland, inhabited by jackals and Koreans.

And it came to pass that after many days, the blogger looked upon the wasteland, and found some of his posts pleasurable, but others he found lacking sense. And the blogger repented of the posts which he had made, and he said, “I will destroy my posts which I have made from under the heavens, and I will blot out the memory of my blogs from the blogosphere.”

And it was so.

But after a time, the blogger relented from his fury, and knew he was addicted to blogging. And the blogger also knew he could learn a lot from his readers, and that lack of writing leads to palsy of the brain.

And the blogger said, “Let there be a blog in the midst of the blogosphere, and let it teem with posts. Let it have a nifty name, and let all who read wonder at the name. And let it be a place of enjoyment, and dialogue, and willingness to be wrong, but only when necessary.”

And it was so.

And the blogger called the name of the blog which he had made, “The Non-Euclidean Blog.” And lo, it was very good, but few understood the name.

And the blogger said, “Let there be an explanation of the name.”

And it was so, in the very next post.