“99 Out of 100” or “The Last 1%”

While raking leaves the other day, I was thinking about “the last one percent.”

Raking leaves, like much physical labor, is all about the most effective use of movement. In a sense, you could say it's about minimizing movement--getting the work done as quickly as possible with the least amount of effort. Engaged in this task, you think about things like the optimal pattern in which to rake the yard, how many times you bend to fill each wheelbarrow, etc.

So, in the process of minimizing my movements, I began thinking about “the last one percent,” or more informally, “just how clean does the yard need to be?” Do I pick up every single leaf? Do I pick up 90% of the leaves? 95%? 99%?

Of course, getting every leaf would only be possible through extraordinary (and foolish) effort … just as removing every drug dealer from the streets would be possible only at astronomical cost of money and human life ... just as guaranteeing that no person would ever again die in a car accident would make automobiles impossibly expensive and impractical to drive … choose any example you'd like. One hundred percent is the limit--the conceptual goal never to be realized but only to be approached. How close one gets depends on the cost one is willing to pay. This seems to be the way that the natural world operates.

However, I can think of situations when this “principle” is turned on its head. For example, in my business, housing, it seems that the last 1% of construction cost is where you really add the most perceived customer value. You can build a great building, with strong architectural integrity, intelligent planning, etc., but if the surface finishes in the kitchens and bathrooms aren't appealing, no one will buy. The other 99% of the building has to be built … there's no way around it. But without that last 1% of quality, the other 99% becomes much less valuable.

Another counter-example … something I've written about before, “the bottom of the bowl.” When you eat a salad, or a bowl of pasta, or whatever, the stuff that collects in the bottom is the best tasting stuff.

You hear the aphorisms, “god is in the details” or “the devil is in the details,” imploring us to be detail-oriented. You taste the stuff at the bottom of the bowl and realize how good it is. And yet nature and human social structures seem to operate in a way that makes attaining the last 1% impractical, even foolish.

I must think about this more … I can't yet reconcile these two interpretations.
It makes my caffeinated heart sing to know that there are many cafes and coffeehouses out there who can make an espresso drink 100x better than Starbucks. Here are two: Gimme! Coffee and Espresso Vivace. And I'm not so bad myself.
Mr. Micawber was waiting for me within the gate, and we went up to his room (top story but one), and cried very much. He solemnly conjured me, I remember, to take warning by his fate; and to observe that if a man had twenty pounds a-year for his income, and spent nineteen pounds nineteen shillings and sixpence, he would be happy, but that if he spent twenty pounds one he would be miserable. After which he borrowed a shilling of me for porter, gave me a written order on Mrs. Micawber for the amount, and put away his pocket-handkerchief, and cheered up.
You can walk up the stairs ("hard" work), you can ride up the escalator ("no" work), or you can walk up the escalator ("smart" work).

Guess who's one year old today? It's Maxie!

Max destroys his birthday cake. Now who wouldn't enjoy doing that?

Found this: Meccano. Wow, very cool.
Reading this article today made me think:

I live in a city with no population growth, no job growth; a city attempting to find its future. "Turning the economy around" in a city like this is a monumental effort. The last thing people here want to think about is all-encompassing social and economic change. They just want to know their job will be around next year.

With the income gap in this county widening, and many Americans going deeper into debt, one must ask the question: Is there a way to operate an economy that does not require growth? ...that does not require constant increases in consumer spending? ...that does not require those of lower income levels to go into debt so they may exist at the same standard of living as their neighbors?
Thirty spokes are made one by holes in a hub, by vacancies joining them for a wheel's use;

The use of clay in molding pitchers comes from the hollow of its absence;

Doors, windows in a house are used for their emptiness.

Thus, we are helped by what is not;

We use what is.
Sometimes you feel good about who you are.

Sometimes you don't feel good about who you are.

Sometimes someone you love makes you feel good about who you are.

Sometimes you accomplish something, and it makes you feel good about who you are.

Sometimes, someone else's asinine behavior makes you feel good about who you are.

Here's what Max typed this morning...

...and then he threw up on the keyboard.

Heard frequently around my house for the past several days: "Max is in bed? Let's play Syberia!"
"... Fully imagined cultural futures were the luxury of another day, one in which 'now' was of some greater duration. For us, of course, things can change so abruptly, so violently, so profoundly, that futures like our grandparents' have insufficient 'now' to stand on. We have no future because our present is too volatile. ... We have only risk management. The spinning of the given moment's scenarios. Pattern recognition."
"People feel happiest when they are in the flow, absorbed, and not figuring out the self," she said.
Yesterday was a good day... Leap day, road trip, birthday fun with my two best friends.

Max is 8 months old today!

Maximilian at 8 months.

I've been "in the workforce" for around seven years now. Last Friday I finally saw, in a number of real ways, a direct connection between something I did and a significant inward flow of money to my company. It was quite a learning experience.
Little Sally:
What is Urinetown?
Urinetown is here!
It's the "town" wherever
People learn to live in fear
So look around, you've finally found
The place you asked about
For Urinetown is your town
If you're hopeless down and out!

If there is one thing I believe, it is that enterprise is only of value when it is fulfilling some real human need. (Of course, the needs of some are the desires of others, but that is a matter of perception, and another discussion altogether.) For example, the only reason to build a building is to meet the needs of those who would inhabit that building.

There are exceptions to this notion. Specifically, I believe that sometimes the results of enterprise, often "things"--buildings, cities, institutions, can become nobler than the people who inhabit or use them. In my case, I see a city that deserves better inhabitants--a population that lives a life noble and worthy of the city's beauty and gifts. The bones and spirit of the city cry out for people who live up to its glorious past and its current potential.
"We are but whirlpools in a river of ever-flowing water." - Norbert Wiener, 1950.