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Kerth: Float like a butterfly, sting like a ballistic missile

Published: Friday, June 20, 2014 4:14 p.m.CDT

Dear folks of the far-far future:

Consider this my confession. It’s all my fault.

See, I usually have a hard-boiled egg and a piece of fruit for breakfast. But this morning I dug into a coffee cake.

And now you’re putting up with the consequences. So if you want to shake your fist at anybody, shake it at me. It’s all my fault.

I didn’t spend any time thinking about the butterfly effect when I scarfed down that coffee cake. But now I can’t get it out of my mind.

The “butterfly effect,” of course, is the theory first conceived by mathematician Edward Lorenz (1917-2008) when he speculated that even a tiny change in a course of events has the ability to spawn massive impacts in the future. The flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil, he argued, might spawn a tornado in Texas.

And he had plenty of evidence to support his theory.

For example, in 1961 he ran a computer model for a weather prediction. As he entered data, he took a short-cut: He keyed in the number 0.506 instead of the fully accurate number of 0.506127. What could be the harm? After all, the abbreviated number was only one ten-thousandth of one percent short of accurate.

But when he ran the program, the outcome of the weather prediction was drastically different from the model he got when he entered the fully accurate number.

Float like a butterfly, sting like a ballistic missile.

So you can see why I’m so concerned about passing up that hard-boiled egg and diving into the coffee cake this morning, can’t you? After all, if a change of one ten-thousandth of one percent can make that much of a difference in a weather prediction, how much punch might be packed in a morning pastry?

One morning is about one-ten-thousandth of 27 years, and I think I had a donut one morning a few years back, too, so there’s no telling what kind of mayhem I may have sent rippling into the future with my thoughtless inconsistency over the past three decades.Because right now, as I sit here confessing my actions to you far-far future folks, there is one more egg in the world than there should have been if I had stuck to the plan. If a Brazilian butterfly can wreak tornadic terror on unsuspecting Texans with one flap more or less, who can say what an extra hen’s egg might do?

Well, you’re living with the repercussions of that egg-echo, my far-far future friends, so I guess you can say what the effect would be. That is if you’re still talking to me between your curses and fist-shaking.

Because of that one egg, I will probably delay buying the next dozen by a day. I’m sure the supermarket will notice, because they keep a close watch on their inventory. Will they adjust their re-stocking order to account for the difference? And if they do, what effect will that have on their egg suppliers? Or, for that matter, on the chickens who lay those eggs? Will my one-time egg-lapse be interpreted as a trend? And will those poor hens be held to account for it?

Then again, they use eggs in coffee cakes, don’t they? Maybe the egg-equation will stay balanced. Maybe that butterfly is still sitting peacefully on a bloom somewhere.

Except that my coffee cake had pecans on it. Somebody is sure to notice there will be a pecan deficiency in the stockroom that dates back to this morning. They must be wondering: Is this, too, an anomaly? Or is it the beginning of a trend that will have far-reaching effects on the world of nut growers, harvesters, shippers and investors?

And let’s not forget that piece of fruit that usually accompanies my morning egg. Right now there are five bananas sitting on the counter. There will still be five of them tomorrow morning instead of the four that were destined to be there in the original plan.

The Internet tells me Chiquita bananas come primarily from Mexico and Central America. Now that there is one more Chiquita in the world than there should have been, what will happen to the geopolitical balance between America and her nearest neighbors?

Pecans, of course, come mostly from our own southern states, from Georgia to Arizona. And most of that sugar in an American-baked coffee cake recipe comes from California, Hawaii or Florida. Will our struggling American economy get a welcome boost from my buy-America sweet tooth this morning? And will it be strong enough to offset the dip in egg futures?

I’ll have to check for ripples in the stock market on CNBC tomorrow.

Which I’m sure will boost their Nielsen ratings.

Anyway, it’s way too early for me to tell how this whole butterfly-effect thing will work out in the far-far future because of my breakfast this morning.

But you do know how the deal went down, my far-far future friends, don’t you? Because you’re living with the mess I created when I passed up that egg and that banana for a mouthful of coffee cake.

I’m sorry.

But then again, if the world is a far, far better place in the far-far future thanks to me, please keep the pigeons off the statue you erected in my honor.

But be gentle when you shoo them away, my far-far future fans. You wouldn’t want them to flap their wings too hard and cause farther-farther future Iceland to sink beneath the sea or something.

• Tom “T. R.” Kerth is a Sun City resident and retired English teacher from Park Ridge. He can be reached at trkerth@yahoo.com.

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