Thursday, March 5, 2009

Numbers

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cL9Wu2kWwSY

Go check out that video, please, and then come back here. Don't linger in the fragrance of the popcorn at the concession stand. Don't get stuck in the spilled Milk Duds on the floor. Just look, listen, and return.

Thanks.

Okay. So I don't know if the makers of that little movie are trying to scare us -- engaging in emotional vandalism -- or if they're trying to make us think, or what. It did scare me a bit, but I also felt suspicious of the numbers. Well, that's no surprise. Numbers, generally, are suspect to me. My friend Richard's birthday was 03/03/09 and his brother congratulated him by mentioning that it was Square Root Day. Why do people even SAY things like that? Don't speak to me of square roots. Square foots are bad enough but at least I sort of get the concept of those.

In a very basic way, I don't like numbers. I don't trust them. They confuse me. I'd much rather not think about them, even though they seem so important.

I mean, everyone, sooner or later, wants my Social Security Number (123 303 8572). And my phone number (727 347 4786). And my license plate number (495 8FA). Many passwords (and they are legion) insist on having at least one number in there. I hate that. It's bad enough having so many significant numbers in, say, my Progress Energy account number (that's my electric bill to you non-Floridians), but it's even worse when I can only have one number. The pressure's on. What if I pick seven? But doesn't everyone think seven's magical? What about three? I think I should choose an odd number, don't you? There's something too obvious about an even number, like you're simply not being creative enough. Five is odd, but it's the center of ten, and I'm pretty sure that ten is more important than every other number, so that somehow makes the five seem even. Even though it's odd. I don't want to pick the one everyone has, but there are only ten (and sometimes Y).

And don't even bring up pi. Jesus. And yet for a moment, Jill had me understanding pi. I got it. The moment passed, however, and I'm back to thinning my lips and scowling. Just leave numbers out of it, okay?

I took a statistics class somewhere along the way. I truly don't remember a single thing from it, except that the professor made this statement: The only thing statistics support is statisticians. If nothing else, I love the sibilants. Yes. Let's go back to letters. SSSSS, even though it may hiss like a snake, is ever so much sweeter than 55555, although I do confess that I spend time at red lights staring at license plates in front of me and seeing which numbers can be used for which letters. If they won't let you get GOD on your vanity plate, for instance (and I know they won't in Kentucky anyhow), you could have 6OD.

But back to statistics. Yay! (That's "yay" backwards, in an attempt to typographically show you how not happy I am about statistics.)

I went to see The Exorcist when it first came out. You youngsters have to try to realize that it was a blockbusting film. It was completely terrifying. People made jokes about Little Creepy Whazzername (Regan? Bush?) puking up "pea soup," but it was extremely realistic and icky, and audiences just weren't used to it. I watched most of it by staring into my lap. I was horrified.

But it was a huge success. I remember hearing on the radio the next day that the movie was drawing record-breaking crowds. Well, yes. But that makes it sound like those record-breaking crowds liked the movie. That wasn't true for me. I abhorred it. But I was one of those people who went and that, apparently, implied liked.

My innate distrust of numbers was validated.

Today on NPR, they said that the number of new claims for unemployment compensation (UC) was down, and that fewer people received UC. Well. Are those numbers down because some people found work or because some people's tenure on The Dole was up?

See? Numbers will tell you what but not why. There are just too many unanswered questions in the numbers. "Record-breaking numbers watched The Exorcist" is true, but it's more true that "many hated it and some slept through it and some were necking through the whole thing believe it or not and some gave up pea soup after that."

There. I believe I've nailed it.

For a rare treat tomorrow, go to Peg's Cantina here in Gulfport around two-thirty. There will be three -- (I just can't get away from numbers!) -- art cars parked together. Liz will be there with her Nissan X-terra and her Bob, Jill will be there with her Mazda van, Lee will be there with his ladder and camera, and I will be there with my Corolla. We're meeting for lunch, followed by a photo shoot for the first two cars. It's time I got them on my website, isn't it?

Ooh! But as long as we're on numbers, let's do that There are two kinds of people thing. Yes! This might be my favorite: There are three kinds of people in the world -- those who can count and those who can't. But Gordy told me this and I really like it: There are two kinds of people in the world -- and I'm one of them!

And numbers have gender in my mind. Do they in yours? Only three and four are female. One and two are male but they're young so they're not dangerous (yet). All the rest are male, with the odd numbers being male and mean, except five, who's odd and male but nice.

Go figure.

4 comments:

bubbletruck said...

pi r squared no their not pie r round

Don Dewsnap said...

There are 10 kinds of people in the world: those who understand binary and those who don't.

Statistics are great. I especially like reading that "25% of the ten people present disagreed with the idea." You are right to be suspicious of statistics; after all, 63% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

Jason said...

You said, "Numbers", and I think I sleep-read my way to the end of the blog. You lost me with statistics, but, my ex-girlfriends Dad used to say this about statistics:
You can make statistics say ANYTHING you want, just by leaving out some information.

Your why info is usually missing from most statistics.

xzentricity43 said...

When I took Stats at SPJC (yeah, I'm a bit dated, its now known as SPC, or St.Pete.College; Junior got exorcised,hehe), the stats instructor told us there are three kinds of lies in this world. There's lies, there's DAMN LIES (he always seemed to emphasize damn lies), and there's statistics. The implied message, of course being, that if one effectively manipulates data, one can lend a sense of legitimacy to virtually any perspective. This doesn't make the pespective legitimate, nor does it make it illegitimate, it merely renders it as suspect, but isn't virtually everything suspect? After all, there is no such thing as truth, there is only today's version of the truth, which will ultimately change as more obervations are manipulated.