Sometimes it helps to be a little quantitative. The standard point count system in the card game Bridge is an excellent example: to evaluate a hand, award 4 points per ace, 3 per king, 2 per queen, and 1 per jack. Then add 3 for a void (no cards in a suit), 2 for a singleton, and 1 for a doubleton. Some further slight adjustments and you've got a number between 0 and 40 that tells you, quite accurately, how strong your cards are and how to bid them optimally.

Likewise in chess: count a pawn as 1, a knight or a bishop as 3, a rook as 5, and a queen as 9. Some further slight adjustments and you've got a good estimate of your material advantage or deficit. It's a fine way to decide whether to trade off pieces and head for a won ending, versus duking it out in a tactical middlegame brawl.

I've invented a few point count systems of my own for office use. On the male fashion front, give yourself 1 for a professional-looking shirt with a collar, 3 for dressy slacks, 5 for cufflinks, 7 for a tie, 9 for a suit coat, and 11 for a vest. (Subtract 10 for blue jeans and 20 for wearing a t-shirt; double those penalties if the garments are torn or feature commercial logos or impolite textual messages.) Normalize the score by seeing what your colleagues wear. Clothe yourself a few points higher if you need to meet with senior levels of management or bigwig customers. Feel free to dress down by a factor of 2 on a casual Friday.

For an annual performance appraisal in a paper-driven bureaucratic environment, claim 1 point for each short newsy publication, 3 per mid-size research memorandum, 5 for a high-level briefing, and 7 when you get a major paper through the review process. If you earn 20 honest points in a year you're doing all right; more, and you may deserve a promotion.

And for an online journal, award 1 point for ...

TopicHumor - TopicPersonalHistory - TopicRecreation - 2004-03-29

(correlates: PrecisionLiving, BureaucraticAcronyms, OneThirdEach, ...)