Thursday, January 13, 2011

Static and Noise: When Animals Attack!

Man Bites Dog? The old journalist trope--"Dog bites man isn't news; man bites dog is"--is, like most tropes, alarmingly true. And so: Fox Shoots Man. That's the sort of thing that goes down in Belarus.

Grammar Time: I'm not a Grammar Nazi, but I do play one on TV. As anyone reading this blog can attest, I am hardly perfect, though I am more than willing to pretend that what I make aren't grammatical errors but "mistypes," based on sloppy, hurried posting rather than my innate inability to conjugate. And I am a bit of a stickler--so help the person who writes "loose" when they mean "lose"--but admittedly I'm a selective stickler. (Mostly I don't care about the things I don't know myself.) Still, I like bursting the bubbles of holier-than-thou Internet asshats who like pointing out the smallest technical errors that anyone in the throes of hastily composing a forum tome can make. To kick the provincial dead horse in the ass, here's a Slate article about how putting two spaces after a period is flat-out wrong. I can't say he's an expert, but it's on the Internets so it must be true, and has the added benefit of making me feel morally superior to others.

Statistical Variance: The Atlantic has published their annual "State of the Union" issue, which more or less show s random assortment of statistical information about the United States. Most of it is fairly routine--Foreclosures are up? You don't say!--but a few things stand out. First is that violent crimes have decreased over the past two years--normally, crime increases when recessions hit, as marginal actors in society get booted off payrolls and onto the streets. I'd be interested to know what contributed to this being different than expected. Our savings rate has almost tripled, which is unusual; in recessions, citizens normally exhaust their savings accounts to make up for lost jobs. (Perhaps those that still have jobs and the means to do so sock more away? But that would have to be a pretty drastic change to compensate for those using up their stashes of cash.) And--oddly--teenagers are reading at about a third of the rate they have been in the past. Not sure why that is. More teens working? Harry Potter isn't around any more? The prevalence of Twitter and Jersey Shore hasn't been around long enough to distract kids that much. I love this sort of thing, mostly because we'll probably never get a proper answer.

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