Archive | February, 2010

The New Barbie

11 Feb

Funny, I was playing with the WordPress settings and colors, etc., and all the sudden I thought that this must be a lot like playing with a Barbie. Now, as much as I’m not a chauvinistic macho guy (uh..have you met me?), I can’t say that I’ve ever played or had any desire to play with a Barbie. But then I just felt icky, picking colors for my blog.

It just all makes me feel a little uncomfortable.  Perhaps choosing a new theme will make me feel better.

The Crap CNN Passes for Reporting

5 Feb

Can you pick up how many ways CNN reports statistics in this one story?

Posted: February 5th, 2010 08:40 AM ET
A new poll out Friday takes a look at the public’s view of the Tea Party and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Nashville, Tennessee (CNN) – One third of Americans have a favorable view of the Tea Party movement, but a plurality have no opinion at all, according to a new national poll.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey indicates that 26 percent of the public has an unfavorable view of the Tea Party movement and that four in ten have never heard of the movement or don’t know enough to form an opinion. The poll’s Friday morning release comes as what’s being billed as the first national Tea Party convention begins its first full day of meetings Nashville, Tennessee.

“The Tea Party movement is a blank slate to many Americans, which is not surprising for a political movement that is only about a year old,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “Not surprisingly, opinion breaks along partisan and ideological lines.”

According to the survey, Democrats by a two-to-one margin have an unfavorable view of the Tea Party movement; Republicans like it by a three-to-one margin. Among Independents, 35 percent of Independents holding a positive view and 24 percent a negative view.

Seriously, are they trying to confuse people on purpose?  First they use flat-out percentages.  Then they say four in 10.  Then they use 3-to-one-margins.  Why in sweet Jesus’ name would they use all these different types of ways to use percentages in one single story?  Presenting statistics is one of the things that we do a lot in public health.  If I presented stats in the way CNN does no one would know what the prevalence rate of anything was. 

I remember when I took my first statistics course our professor showed us that you can basically make any point with statistics, as long as you present it in a way that is favorable to what you want to say.  I’m not a “Tea Party” person or anything remotely to it, but it almost appears as if CNN is trying to confuse people on purpose as to what its poll says.  Why not simply use straight percentages?  Or use straight “1 out of 10” type of breakdown?  That way people can compare apples to apples and it makes for much simpler reading and hence accessible to everyone.  CNN constantly releases their polls in this manner and it bugs the hell out of me.

On a related side note, there was this one marketing person that I worked with on a campaign that would constantly communicate “when we polled teens we found almost 7 out of 10 teens don’t drink, but the teens thought that 90% of teens do drink.”  I kept asking her not to use that because it was confusing, and I could see the teen’s faces when she would explain it that they  said in the back of their head “????!!” I would explain it saying “teens thought that only about 1 out of 10 teens don’t drink, but in reality almost 7 out of 10 teens don’t drink.”   You could clearly see they got that.  This CNN story totally reminds me of that.

My name is Pedro and I’m a bad writer

2 Feb

“I would let you into my honors class, but your writing is bad.” Those were the words of my 7th grade English teacher after I told him that my 6th grade English teacher recommended I move to honors. As he uttered that sentence, I imagined the rest of my life in a career where I would never be forced to write anything. I could talk for a living, I suppose, but I had only learned English 2 years ealier so I was lacking in the pronunciation department. I used to love writing back then, and I guess I still do (it’s a cheap form of therapy). And I concur with my 7th grade teacher, I am a bad writer. I have never mastered the use of, a, comma. Even when I think I’m being meticulous I switch they’re, their, and there. And I ramble, sometimes repeating myself with different words, over, and over, and over. Plus I add extra words where there really is no need, and sometimes I tend to repeat myself.

But in 7th grade the meaning of “bad writer” was far more reaching than not being able to put together a coherent sentence or write anecdotes in a witty manner. It meant, at least to me, that I had nothing of importance to say; that I was dumb. But then again, I had perfect A’s in 6th grade, and only learned English a few years back. Seriously, what the hell was he expecting from me? On a completely unrelated but interesting note, that teacher had to serve time for dating one of my classmates in his honors class.

Yesterday I got word that I got a scholarship from the LGBT Tobacco Control Network to attend the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco conference being held the end of this month in Baltimore. The stipulation is that I blog about my experiences there and give insight about topics in the sessions to people who didn’t get to attend. Writing. Great.

“…your writing is bad…”

-Pedro’s 7th Grade English teacher

To be honest, I’m excited about blogging and the concept of someone actually reading what I write. I’ll just have to put my own inadequacies on the side for a while. It’s hard not to hear my 7th grade teacher in the back of my head telling me that I’m a bad writer, but the cool think is that blogging is your own personal form of self-expression. Plus I’ve learned that I may not be the brightest color in the crayon box, but I certainly have lots to say, especially about public health related stuff. After all, if the Kardashians blog prolifically, why shouldn’t I?