Static

I’ve been having static trouble lately. Both kinds.

Type 1 Static: Sheer bloody inertia. Putting on clothes, brushing teeth, making coffee… too much effort. Nope. None of that. Going to sit perfectly still and play Farm Mania and watch Play School with the ninja until my brain liquefies.

Type 2 Static: Annoying fizz between ears that inhibits creative thought. Nothing shifts it – playing stimulating music, watching Avatar: The Last Airbender, hot showers, all the usual things? No, they will not be working now. Now all your creative neurons have collectively rolled onto their backs, making an irritating fizzing sound and refusing utterly to cooperate.

Type 1 is linked to depresssion and anxiety, and I’m following the prescribed steps to deal with it. But Type 2 Static is just… argh. I don’t even know what it is, sometimes it just happens and it’s the most irritating thing in the world because I can’t think and I can’t imagine anything and I get so very bored. I really don’t realize how much time I spend creating stories in my head – original, fan-fiction, silly songs, whatever – until I can’t do it and suddenly the walk to the train station or the shops is twice as long and so very, very dull because there’s nothing going on in my head and nothing going on outside my head and I get so bored.

I was having trouble with that yesterday – usually I enjoy pacing up and down at the station waiting for the train, listening to my music and creating a Tyrion and/or Zuko fanvid to Lion King 2‘s ‘One of Us’ in my head. Just for a random example.  But yesterday I couldn’t kick my imagination into gear at all, so I was getting bored and frustrated as I paced, and then this guy showed up to wait for the train too, and he was just… standing there. At the edge of the platform. Just standing, doing nothing.

I really, really wanted to ask him how he could stand it. I was moving around. I had my music. And I was still bored out of my skull because of the stupid static. And he was just standing there staring at the train track. I can’t do that even when I don’t have static!

I didn’t ask, of course, because it would be rude. And maybe he was just absorbed in the My Little Pony/ Gargoyles epic crossover he was writing in his head, I don’t know. Maybe he was reviewing football scores or composing a breakup speech. Who knows?

But he looked bored. And yet he was just standing there.

Does anyone else ever look up from their book or their game of solitaire or whatever on a train or in a food court or something and see people just sitting and think ‘aren’t you so bored? how can you stand it’? I do, all the time. I’d really like to know, actually, so if you do know, fill me in please!

Stupid static. I’m going to go make myself more coffee and see if it budges anything.

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You Are Not A Statistically Relevant Sample

Is there a politer way to tell someone ‘you are not a statistically relevant sample’? Because I used those words in an argument a while ago and caused some offense.

It was true, though. I offered some statistics on institutionalized sexual discrimination (I actually memorized numbers, and you guys know how hard remembering is for me) and the person I was talking to asserted that there is no such thing because she, personally, knew two women who were high up in management in very successful companies.

I hate, hate, hate when someone responds to ‘societal trend’ or ‘statistical information’ with ‘personal anecdote’. I believe that you know women who are successful. I will even believe that all your female friends are super successful and happy with their career choices. Sure.

BUT YOU ARE NOT A STATISTICALLY RELEVANT SAMPLE.

“But I know women who are successful.”

“But I would never rape anyone.”

“But I don’t have any problem with trans/gay/non-white people.”

“But I totally knew a guy who was accused of rape and it turned out she made it up.”

I believe you. I do, I swear.

YOU ARE NOT A STATISTICALLY RELEVANT SAMPLE.

No matter what your gender, sex, sexual orientation, age, race, nationality, height, whatever. Your personal opinion does not trump everyone else’s experiences because statistics. And because logic. I’m not saying it’s not relevant to anything ever, but when one is trying to discuss institutionalized racism in one’s country’s history personal opinions are not evidence.

Racism, sexism, any old ism you can think of, there are people who will trot out a single anecdotal example to the contrary and think that that’s a counter-argument. And it isn’t. It really, really isn’t. Your opinion does not counter the thousands of incidents of racially or sexually motivated violence reported every year, or the prejudice people other than you experience every day. A single anecdote, however moving, does not counter them either. I don’t care if you were mugged by a gang of rabid feminists who made you kneel to the matriarchy, laughed at your penis size and then stole your wallet. Well, I do care on a personal level, because obviously that would be scary, and I sympathize, I do. But unless there are over 84,000 reported cases of Feminist Muggings every year, and when you tried to report it you were asked if you’d been drinking and what you were wearing and told you must have asked for it, and your partner blamed you for giving other women your money instead of bringing it home to her because you must have wanted it, then it does not mean jack shit in an argument about rape statistics because one incident is not a trend and it does not mean that sexism is over.

On a personal level, yes, you have my deepest sympathy.

But you are still not a statistically relevant sample, and you cannot extrapolate a social trend from a single incident. A personal anecdote, no matter how personally traumatic, is not an argument against an institutionalized social thingie. (Watching Finding Nemo does not make remembering appropriate language easier, so you know).

I haven’t been able to come up with a more polite way to say ‘yes, but your personal opinion doesn’t actually outweigh facts’, so arguments with certain members of my family and circle of friends will continue to be fraught with difficulty.  However, this phrase has worked quite well for me in derailing the ‘yes, but personal anecdote’ line of argument. Just look the nay-sayer firmly in the eye, or the text, and say as nicely as possible ‘yes, but you are not a statistically relevant sample.’

Anyone who is made angry by your failure to accept that their personal opinion and anecdotes are equally relevant to the argument as the entirety of a United Nations statistical report compiled from multiple government sources is a person who has not done their research and is therefore a suspect source of information. Assuming that you have done your research and are not likewise talking out of your butt, unless they have a really killer argument for how their personal experience illustrates a larger trend (and I’m not saying that the ‘established facts’ are always flawless, for the record), the odds that they’re right and you’re wrong are pretty low.

The odds of me getting my butt flamed off for this, by the way, seem pretty high. I’ll concede that I’m only going from my personal experience here, but observation tells me that when a woman announces ‘your opinion is invalid’, her chances of being flamed by men is very high. Let’s see if the facts bear out my personal experiences!