Monday, June 25, 2012


Entropy is the measure of the number of ways a system can be arranged. A system with high entropy is one with disorder, and all systems trend towards states of high entropy. I find it reassuring to know that the natural state of the universe is chaos. It's not just my poor housekeeping.

I was thinking of entropy as I embarked this weekend upon the mammoth task of sorting out the children's toys bins. Now, I have a natty IKEA arrangement of plastic bin shelving, optimistically labeled "dolls", "vehicles", "animals" etc but in reality, whenever I clear the floor of toys, I sweep everything into random bins, so what we actually have is a state of extreme disorder. Tubs filled of pet shop animals, stuffed animals, squinkies, superheros, bits of lego, brio, playmobil, matchbox cars, dolls clothes, my little pony grooming tools, polly pocket ice cream sundaes, mardi gras beads, hair clips, plastic food, maps from the zoo, playing cards and home made valentines. To my shame I even found a melted and reformed packet of chocolate buttons lurking in one of them the other day.

Since "entropy is proportional to the natural logarithm of the number of possible microscopic configurations of the individual atoms and molecules of the system" (thanks wikipedia), I was even pondering if it might be possibly to mathematically describe the state of the children's bedroom, and identify the probability of a child being able to find (for example) the tail light of a lego safari jeep in the morass of plastic.

I know some people who manage to keep every kit in its original state, never losing even a single puzzle piece or a playmobil persons hair. A friend of mine who falls into this category even sells this cool product which can indeed do wonders for organization if you actually put your toys in it, and put one thing away before playing with another. I suspect though that anyone who has more than one child, and who, when the children are quiet and occupying themselves prefers to get on with some adult activities like blogging or lying on the couch drinking wine, often returns to a previously organized room to find that the kids have decided that all the puzzle pieces, barbie shoes and lego cubes are food for the imaginary raccoons that live in the linen closet, and have mixed all these items together in a pillowcase.

This weekend I tipped everything the kids own into a giant pile. The pile resembled those bundles of plastic flotsam floating depressingly in the ocean. I was quite horrified at how much plastic crap we own. I spent several hours categorizing everything, tossing quite a lot of things in the trash, and restoring order to chaos. Entire kits were made whole again. I even found the tail light of the lego jeep.

I realized as I sorted that our stuffed animal collection is quite out of control. The main culprit has been my frequent business travel. I got into the habit of picking up a gift every time I went away, since my trips were fairly infrequent. In recent months though, I have been going down to our San Diego office twice a month or more, and the collection of plush aquatic and zoo animals from the SAN airport shop has grown exponentially. I've alluded previously to big changes afoot in the geekyhousehold, and this reorganization is a prelude to this change. The increasingly frequent trips to San Diego were a foreshadowing. My company has closed its bay area office, and made me an offer to move to San Diego. This weekend's clean up was performed in preparation for a big move.

 Two career families are often faced with hard choices. Statistically, women more often choose to forgo opportunities that require relocation in favor of keeping families together, and this likely contributes to the stark attrition of women in the upper echelons of organizations, as mobility can be key to success. Faced with this decision myself, I can understand the dilemma.

But for many reasons, and not because I don't want to be another depressing statistic, in a few short weeks the kids and I are moving south. Since Geekydaddy's job is in the bay area he is staying up here for the time being, and will join us only on weekends. I still can't quite actually believe that I am going to leave my beloved San Francisco. I can only hope that we are not moving towards chaos and that I can continue to keep my head above water in our new environment. Wish me luck!