Monday, March 22, 2010

Lies, damned lies, and statistics

Today I'm going to write a short blog on how numbers are twisted and mashed before being presented to the public for digestion. I'm going to use the current health care debate as the basis as some new research that HAS been misrepresented. The whole purpose of this isn't to support or malign this topic, rather just to show everyone exactly HOW things get so messed up and how easy it is to misrepresent a statistic. Sadly, most people in the US don't have a very comprehensive knowledge of how statistics and the social sciences work. This is really too bad, as it's fundamental for understanding public opinion in a democracy.

Here is what is getting airplay today - this is from a CNN opinion poll:

As you may know, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate are trying to pass final legislation that would make major changes in the country’s health care system. Based on what you have read or heard about that legislation, do you generally favor it or generally oppose it?

Mar 19-21
Favor 39%
Oppose 59%
No opinion 2%

Ok, so imagine you're watching Fox News -- what's the talking point here? That Americans clearly did not want health care reform, right? The problem is that these statistics only refer to the actual question! Anything you're taking away from it is your own bias. Let me prove this to you. Let's look at the next question in the poll:

21. (IF OPPOSE) Do you oppose that legislation because you think its approach toward health care is too liberal, or because you think it is not liberal enough?
Mar 19-21
Favor (from Question 20) 39%
Oppose, too liberal 43%
Oppose, not liberal enough 13%
No opinion 5%

Now, this changes the whole world view of the discussion -- we now see that 52% support health reform, just that 13% think that the bill didn't go far enough! Do you see how the original statistic in isolation manipulated your perception of the situation? Both stats are accuarate, but unless you have the second one, you're left with the impression that most of America is against reform, which is totally not the case. 52% are for, 43% are against, and 5% are undecided. That's a whole different world.

Anyway, you can see all the stats here.

By the way, I'd like to point out -- health stocks are up today. Clearly the business world saw the passage of health care reform as a plus. Just something to think about.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Blah Blah Blah

I'm feeling under the weather. Nothing beats getting really sick after having an extremely trying week where I was nearly overwhelmed by the stress of both my job and my relationships. It just goes to show that no matter how much you plan, chaos can enter your life at any point and toss you for a loop. In any case, both my happiness and health meters are registering in the negative currently. I used to mess with an old biorhythm game thing on an old computer -- I imagine my sine curve breaking its oscillation to dive below the screen.

There are a large number of things I would love to rant about, as well as many I'd love to rave about ... but, I just have no energy, which is quite sad. So, I'll leave it with a video of gameplay from the new Shin Megami Tensei game that is being released for the DS this week. If you're looking for a mature game where mature doesn't equal sex and drugs, this is a great choice!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

I choose you!

It's hard to believe that it's been 12 years since the first Pokemon game was released here in the US. The amount of hype surrounding the video games, the collectible card game, the TV show, and the toys was pretty crazy. Everything was constantly selling out. The funny bit was all the pundits commenting on how it would be a quick to fade fad. Nothing of such magnitude could be sustained in an ongoing manner. Kids would burn out on it. The shelves would be littered with the skeletal remains of the toys. Everyone would move on to something new.

Tomorrow marks the release of Pokemon Heart Gold & Soul Silver. If you want to count every game, there have been well over 40 Pokemon games released in the last 12 years -- and, these two will be one of the best sellers of March, if not THE best sellers. We're four generations into different Pokemon games, and the fifth is going to be released later this year. I'm picking up the games; my girlfriend enjoyed the last one, so we trade and play together. I have a nephew in college who will be getting it, and I have a nephew in grade school that will be getting it.

This one small window shows you exactly why Pokemon survives. It doesn't have an age group. There is something appealing about it to almost everyone that plays. Is it the spunky character you play? Collecting all the Pokemon? The battles? The story? Everyone finds something to enjoy.

If you've got to give a kid a game, Pokemon is an awesome choice. They have to read some, consider strategy, plan ahead, solve puzzles, explore -- I mean, it really works so many mental aspects, I can't see how anyone would find it objectionable. Now the game is going to come with a Pokewalker! You can add exercise to what the game promotes. You can download a Pokemon of your choice into a pedometer, and every step you take gives it a little experience and makes it stronger.

The longevity of this game completely fascinates me. I also know that I'm going to be in good company when I pick up my copies tomorrow. Here's a trailer for those of you not familiar with the the updated game:

Back to my writing. I'm still a bit confused as to what to write next. I thought I'd had it figured out, but one of my characters is pissed at being perpetually tortured in the limbo of unwritten novels and wants out. She's very pig-headed and hard to deal with, so I may have to let her out.

However, I think it'll be the least marketable of all the stories I want to write, but I may not have a choice. Sometimes, writing is a compulsion. If you don't acquiesce to the muse, your life becomes miserable. It's so weird, but anyone that has ever written, painted, or composed music because of a calling will understand what I mean. The rest of you are just going to assume I'm insane, which I'm not sure I could argue.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

They reboot comics -- can we reboot society?

I tend to post a lot on Kotaku, a major game blog for those who don't know. Today, a post went up regarding the lack of playable women in war games like Call of Duty. The piece inadvertently slighted the service of a lot of female service members by starting off with this line:

Women have been serving admirably in warzones for the U.S. military for about a decade.

Clearly, women have been serving and dying in war zones for far longer than a decade. It belittles those that sacrificed before 2000 almost as having not existed. Considering this site is read by a lot of teens and young adults, it really screws with our perception of history.

In fact, the first recorded woman fighting and being wounded in an American war is during the American Revolution -- she was given an honorable discharge by George Washington even though she had to pretend to be a man to do so. In any case, there is a long history of women being in actual battle zones - including WWII, Korea, Vietnam, up to current times (see Jessica Lynch).

To be fair, the writer corrected the intro line to "Women have been serving admirably in warzones for the U.S. military for years.", which is much better -- but, what concerns me is the misogyny that seems apparent within the thread I was posting. There were comments like:

So if in this modern age of blistering feminism, what makes you think that back before women suffrage women did anything pertaining to battle other than knitting up soldiers and flags?

Compared to the 416,800 Male casualties, I'm pretty sure that 16 was kinda easy to miss.

Those were actually posted -- and there were more. It's amazing that the marginalization of contributions women have made continues even today. I'm sure to the families of those women killed, it wasn't very easy to miss.

Honestly, I just don't understand what's wrong with people in this nation. You're bad if you're gay. You can't contribute if you're black. If you're an intellectual, you're useless. If you're creative, you're dangerous.

Ugh ... just not happy with humanity today.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


My most recent short story is off to the anthology editors. I don't have very high hopes, unless they're open to a sorta good story that needs some pacing adjustments. Short story editors usually aren't. When looking at a novel, it's a lot easier to deal with those sorts of changes, but I'm not sure I'll be given that opportunity for this. So, it's time to move on. I want to write a quick ghost story based on Blackburn Burrow and submit that within the next couple weeks, then it's probably some Shiloh's Way editing before actually starting work on a new book.

I've written a pretty good amount of fiction over the last few months, so I'm happy about that ... but, I'm not convinced any of it is really good. Not only that, work is extraordinarily stressful right now as I'm responsible for way more than I should be, and I'm being asked to do some stuff way, way outside my job description. I really don't mind helping, but it's putting me in uncomfortable situations, and I feel like my core job is suffering because of it. I'm afraid these circumstances may be used against me during my review, even though it wasn't my choice to be placed in this situation. So, yeah ... stressful.

On a happier subject, there are a lot of fun games coming out this month. The Nintendo DS is going to have a HUGE month, too. Of course, the biggest release is going to be the new Pokemon update -- I'll be getting both versions so that my girlfriend and I can play together. Besides Shin Megami Tensei (awesome game, always), I'm looking forward to Infinite Space an awful lot. It's for the Nintendo DS, and it's a space opera RPG where you can find blueprints and build your own starships. You can even recruit a crew from over 100 people and then build a fleet. It just looks like a lot of fun. Check out the trailer below: