Dear Dr. Boli: I heard a lot of people talking about “irrational numbers” today for some reason, and I started to get worried. My whole business model depends on my numbers behaving in a rational and predictable manner. How do I know when a number is starting to get irrational? —Sincerely, The Guy Who Runs the Numbers Racket Out of the Final Cut Barber Shop.

Dear Sir: Numbers do not become irrational all at once. In general, you will see warning signs. One day they will start telling you that this is the year the Pirates win the pennant, or that raising defense spending and cutting taxes will balance the federal budget, or that it’s perfectly reasonable for a college education to cost $35,000 a year, and then you will know that your numbers are beginning to lose their grip on reality. Aside from giving them a cup of soothing chamomile tea, there is really little you can do for them other than protect them from their own poor decisions.