18 entries categorized "Graphs"

My New Excuses for Not Blogging Will Be "Kidney Stolen" and "It Burns"

This Wired piece on digital-age etiquette contains some truly fabulous graphs and graphics.  My favorite is this one on plausible excuses for calling in sick:


Also good is this one on balanced media consumption:


And finally, Holsters: A Style Guide.


(Sidenote: I still do not own beer holsters.  And I have lost this shirt.  So my hands-free beer capabilities are even worse than they were two years ago.  I am hereby officially renewing my commitment to owning beer holsters.)

Comparing Apples to Oranges (and Peaches)

I am a huge fan of Bravo's various Real Housewives series, and in watching the three different strains of the show--New York, Atlanta, and the OC--I often find myself mentally comparing the ladies with each other.  Today I plotted them all on the graph below, which charts them against two axes: likability and ambition level.  I also labeled each woman with an apple, orange, or peach to make it easier to identify them by their respective cities.  (Click to enlarge and view the full-size version.)
Housewives2 copy
Some notes:

  • Unsurprisingly, the Shiftless/Unlikeable quadrant is the most heavily populated.  In fact, only four housewives received "Likeable" rankings at all: Jill, Bethenny, NeNe, and Lynne.  I realize that even those four could be controversial, particularly Lynne and NeNe.  But I liked poor, dumb, sweet Lynne and delighted in NeNe's slightly-evil-but-usually-funny attitude, so they received the coveted "Likeable" rating.
  • DeShawn is at absolute zero: neither likeable nor unlikeable; not particularly hardworking, but (thanks to her charrrrrrrrrity), also not particularly shiftless.  Although this made her the blandest, most boring housewife of all, it also made her extremely useful to me in terms of graphing the other housewives.  If I was having trouble deciding which side of the line to put a certain housewife on, I could ask myself, "Do I like her more or less than DeShawn?  Does she work harder than DeShawn, or not as hard?"
  • According to my system, Kim Zolciak (Atlanta) is the most shiftless housewife in all the land.  This sounds about right. 
  • Kelly Bensimon (New York) is the most unlikeable housewife of all, followed closely by Ramona.  Being the most unlikeable person in this group is quite a coup--especially for someone new to the show.  Way to go, Kelly.  You are a truly unpleasant person.

Feel free to provide your own analysis.  I know I am not the only person who watches this show.

Dissertation to Follow

One afternoon last month (when I was still at my old company), a co-worker was having trouble finishing an e-mail to the client.  "You see, I need his report updates, so I'm telling him to send them to me, but I have to phrase it like I'm asking because he's the client," she explained.  "Should I say, 'this is just a gentle reminder?'  Or is it 'friendly reminder?'  Or neither?" 

Naturally, a vigorous debate about the complexities of subtle passive-aggressive nudging ensued.  What amazed me was the diversity of opinion on the subject; of the nine people in the room, three were passionate "gentle reminder" proponents, two others were vehemently pro-"friendly reminder," one was leaning toward "gentle" but not sure, one said they were the same, and two had no idea.  Eventually we came to the consensus that she might as well flip a coin, because clearly there was no consistent rule to be applied, so we had no idea of predicting how it would be perceived by the client either way.

I always run into this same issue as it relates to signing e-mails at work, particularly when I am dealing with a new client or someone who is important.  I mean, I know I shouldn't sign something at work with "Love, Lauren," and I'm pretty sure my mom would think it was weird if I started writing "Sincerely yours" at the end of all my notes to her--but everything in between is a crapshoot.  I decide to try and make a little diagram to help me sort through my problem.


After careful consideration, I decided the best approach was to plot some typical goodbye-type expressions against axes of affectation (X) and closeness (Y).  I felt these axes gave me the best basis for evaluating the connotation of various phrases, and now that the graph is complete I think it presents a good visual idea of how I characterize certain things.

Looking at the graph, I can say for sure that I avoid all phrases in the "smug/detached" quadrant like the plague.  I never use them, and I kind of roll my eyes when someone uses them with me.  "Detached" isn't necessarily bad by itself, though, because the phrases in the detached/unaffected quadrant are good for more formal situations. However, I can't really explain why I have such different perceptions of some similar-sounding things--"Best" and "Best Wishes," for example--so I have to concede that I may be way off here in my groupings.  Maybe I have no sense for this kind of thing.

Regardless, I'd clearly like to hear what ones you agree/disagree with, and what words I forgot to throw on there.



P.S. I made this chart in PowerPoint, so it's not very cute.

In Case You Were Looking for Reasons Not to Go to the College of Business at Illinois State University

I read some very disturbing news today:

The College of Business at Illinois State University is taking the imperative to "dress for success" literally. Starting this fall, students majoring in marketing or business teacher education will have to watch what they wear, donning business casual attire in class — or risk getting kicked out for the day. (Source)

Wow.  That's grounds for transfer.  After all, I spent roughly the entire four years of my college career wearing the same pair of blue sweatpants, and I am extremely distressed by the prospect that some students may be losing their right to do the same.

Sure, college is supposed to prepare you for the real world, but it's also supposed to be a delightfully isolated community where you cross the street without looking, scream curse words without offending children, and--this is the cornerstone of the whole thing, really--dress like a slob.

Kelly and I were pretty extreme in our adaptation of collegiate slovenliness; at one point during junior year we lived on an all-girl floor and basically stopped even wearing pants.  Kelly would walk around in a green fleece robe all of the time, and I could usually be seen wearing a thrift store T-shirt and a blanket.

Usually though, our dressing happened according to this pyramid:


At the foundation of the pyramid were grubby sweats, our bread and butter.  We wore these whenever we were in our dorms or the dining hall, and we had a gigantic shared cache of hoodies, zip-ups, Maryland pants, and super-wide drawstring pajamas to fit our every need (because pretty much every need we had involved comfort or convenience).

Next on the pyramid were our "cute" sweatpants.  "Cute" is probably a misleading term, but basically we had a second set of slightly more presentable sweats that we would wear to class and to the nicer dining hall.  These were your capri sweats, yoga pants, fitted sweats, etc--we even had a set of slightly cuter hoodies and zip-ups that we saved for such formal occasions.

So, 95.45% of our college activities involved outfits from either group of sweats, but at the tippy top of the pyramid we also had our going-out clothes for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.  And although those may have been our most attractive hours of the week, I will always remember us like this:


Because really, even your nicest outfit isn't gonna do much to class up the fact that you're drinking Arbor Mist out of a plastic mug.

A Decade-Point-Five of Stopping Being Polite and Starting Getting Real

I learned today while reading Pop Candy--which is fast becoming my absolute favorite pop culture blog--that Monday marked the 15th anniversary of MTV's The Real World.  That's 15 years, not seasons--there have been 18 of those, the most recent of which just had its finale. (Apparently. I had to look that fact up on Wikipedia, because I don't watch anymore.  However, I'm going to spare you the whole "The Real World used to be so great and now it sucks so much" rigamaroll because it's OLD.*)  But I would like to observe this occasion by charting my own personal experience with the show.

Below I have graphed a line representing my ongoing level on interest in The Real World.  I gave each season a 1-10 ranking (10 being the best) reflecting my personal interest in it when it was originally aired.  The seasons that took place before I began watching MTV are ranked as zeroes (despite the fact that I now know a lot about them and their characters thanks to True Hollywood Stories and reruns). The two seasons I liked most were given 10s.  Everything else was ranked relative to those figures.


(Click to enlarge.)

As you can see, most of the groundbreaking early years passed by with little to no recognition from yours truly.  Hawaii was the first season for which age, schedule, interest, and cable privileges all finally conspired to rope me into watching, and by then most of the show's real iconic moments had already passed me by.  So though my graph peaks in the middle, it's likely that someone a few years older than me would have a graph showing more of a straight downward trend in interest over the years.

But this is my experience, and I was intrigued but not surprised to see that the years I was significantly interested in the show (1997-2005) cover the exact span of time from my first year of high school to my last year of college.  Imagine that!

Anyway, I'm curious to hear what your own personal Real World graph would look like.  What are the high points?  Lows?  What trend does it follow?  Between which two points can the greatest slope be found?  Does your imaginary mental version of a graph ALSO have a cute little Real World logo pasted into its imaginary middle?  Describe, please. 

*Seriously, old.  TV shows that used to be great and now suck are certainly a pet peeve of mine, but you know what else is? People who complain about how shows that used to be great really suck now.  I mean, I myself am guilty of having said, "God, The Real World used to be so deep, and now it's pathetic," so I am therefore including myself in the list of people I am  criticizing here, but I feel like we can officially abandon that phrase now along with a few others.  Most notably, I'd be just fine if I never again heard someone say, "God, SNL is just awful now," or "OMG, the recent episodes of The Simpsons are pathetico."  We get it.

America's Next Not Last Place Model

Tonight was the season finale of Cycle 8 of America's Next Top Model, so I am finally allowing myself to talk about it on this blog.  After a slightly disappointing Cycle 7, Cycle 8 has been AMAZING--probably my favorite since Cycle 4. America's Next Top Model is a great show, and a fantastic example of how to entertain people.

America's Next Top Model is also a great example of how not to make a decision.

You see, the big pink elephant in the room with ANTM is that none of the girls who've won it have ever gone on to achieve any real commercial success whatsoever.  One of them married Peter Brady, but that's about it.  So each season, it gets a little more awkward when Tyra says things like "One of these girls is about to experience a huge. life. change." or "Congratulations--you are still in the running to become America's. Next. Top. Model." (One of the things you learn quickly while watching this show is that the last few words of every one of Tyra's sentences are actually sentences. in. themselves.)  The reason these girls really only ever end up becoming America's Next Top Wikipedia Footnotes/CW Series Pilot Guest Stars is because the format of the show (and probably of reality TV in general) is in direct violation of the main principle of good decision making.

The thing we learn in grade school while taking tests is that your first instinct is almost always the correct answer--if you rely on your gut instincts, you'll be right most of the  time.  In other words, the format for finding America's Next Top Model should really be like this:


That's not really great TV though, so reality TV shows like ANTM completely discard this wisdom in favor of another route, which I have tried to capture via the flowchart below (click to enlarge).


As we've seen time and again, the attempt to stretch what is an essentially a very simple decision (Who looks best in a bathing suit?  Her?  OK cool, let's call it a day) into a weeks-long show results in a lackluster finale.  The winner is just the one who did the best job at not losing--the one who managed, week after week, to not be in last place.  When it comes down to it, it doesn't matter how many times she was the best; it's just that she was never flat-out the worst.

ANTM isn't out to show us how to make effective decisions, though--it's out to give us one of the most entertaining hours in television.  And it does.  That's why when it comes down to it I would never want them to change a damn thing, except maybe the title.  America's Next Top Winner of America's Next Top Model seems to encapsulate things a little bit better.

The Shows You Watch When You Don't Have Cable

The other day Kelly commented to me, "I think one of your talents is that you are really good at becoming invested in crappy network TV shows."  Sweet, I'll rank that right up there with "knack for making any situation awkward," "aptitude for buying lip gloss," and "ability to sleep through anything."  Who needs to be able to sing, dance, or draw when you can be blessed with such truly useful skills as mine?

It's true, though.  I have been without cable for six months now, ever since I moved into my apartment and couldn't believe that regular old standard cable was going to cost me $55 a month.  This was a $55 increase over the previous rate I had been paying for cable at my parents' house and in college, so I was understandably shocked.  My roommate was similarly appalled, and she and I both decided that we would enter an experimental phase of living without cable.  We figured we'd just see how long we could go without it.

Our cheap "basic cable package," which comes at a more manageable $14.95/month, comes with 31 channels.  That would be a small number even if they were all good channels, but alas, they are not. The breakdown is more like this:


So I've had to mine the five watchable channels pretty vigorously.  Here are my favorite treasures so far:

Wife Swap, ABC Monday, 8 p.m.
Each week, two new families representing the most extreme polar opposites on a given spectrum (the super religious family and the super-atheist family!  The rural farm family and the sophisticated city family!) switch Moms for two weeks.  Without fail, the newly transplanted Moms are shocked--shocked--to see that ABC has matched them with families that are the complete opposite of their own (it's almost like they're trying to set everyone up for controversy!). 

Here's how it always plays out: both families spend the first 45 minutes of the show making absolutely no attempt to show tolerance of or understanding for the new Mom's way of life, and the new Mom goes through the full cycle of an emotional breakdown in front of our eyes. Then, the last 15 minutes of the show feature each of the families forging a tenuous truce with New Mommy and halfheartedly promising that "thanks to you, this family's going to start recycling/pray more/clean our floors!"

Super Nanny, ABC Monday, 9 p.m.
This comes on right after Wife Swap on Monday nights, ensuring that I start of the week with more than enough examples of why nobody should ever have children or start a family.  Where Wife Swap starts off by showing how insane and obnoxious parents are, Super Nanny picks up and reminds us that kids are pretty damn terrible as well.  This show has added at least five years to the minimum age at which I intend to give birth to any children.  Which I guess means it's up to 95 now.

America's Next Top Model, The CW Wednesday, 8 p.m.
Now in its eighth cycle, this show continues to be television's top provider of two things: dumb girl histrionics and opportunities to marvel at the self-consumed Tyra Banks, who gets 200% more removed from reality with each episode.

Lost, ABC Wednesday, 10 p.m.
Games_lightsoutOK, so do you remember that little handheld game called "Lights Out?"  It was always impossible for me to win at that game, and I hated how it always seemed like the only way to get one of the lights to go off was to trigger, like six of its surrounding lights.  I would always quit with more lights on than I had started with.  Watching Lost has started to become like playing that game, because every time they "solve" one of the show's mystery they introduce another little set of them.  But I can't stop watching, because I'm way more emotionally invested in Lost than I ever was in some dumb puzzle.

The Office, NBC Thursday, 8:30 p.m.
Speaking of emotionally invested, may God bless The Office.  That's all I have to say about this one.

Grease: You're the One That I Want, NBC Sunday, 8 p.m.
I would be embarrassed about this, but I'm too busy tapping my toes to the music!  I have no idea why I like this show (I don't even watch American Idol) but I do.  It's not because the contestants are particularly enthralling--check out the first paragraph of Sandy-wannabe Ashley's lame NBC bio:

Ashley is a small-town girl who loves chocolate (she even hides it in her room in case she's having a craving in the middle of the night!), old movies with Fred Astaire and says she's closest to her mom, Molly. Molly claims that Ashley came out singing and dancing.

Sweet!  I'm dying to read more. 

So yeah, not sure why this show appeals to me so much.  But then again, who knows why Danny liked Sandy so much?  Or why she liked him?  Unless that was made really clear in the movie--I don't think I actually ever even saw it.

Friends, The CW weekdays, 7 and 7:30 p.m.
I'm really into watching Friends right now, because they're airing a bunch of episodes that I missed during my freshman or sophomore year of college when I was obsessed with Survivor for a minute.  And of course, the old episodes with Skinny Chandler and Big Rachel Hair are always a treat as well.  A solid dinnertime choice.

Jeopardy, ABC weekdays, 7:30 p.m.

Well, the end of this story is not going to be me saying that I don't think I'll ever need premium cable again because I've found such joy with basic.  That's just not true.  I do miss VH1 and E! and Bravo all my other friends, and I look forward to having them back someday.  I am, however, quite pleased at how survivable my life has been without them.  I'm more courageous than I thought.

Confusion, Thy Name is Cool Whip

Cool Whip has me genuinely confused right now.  As far as I can tell, there is no significant need to have regular, 'Lite,' and 'Free' versions.

I recently purchased all three when they were on sale at Giant because I wanted to figure out which version tastes better; I was surprised to discover, though, that not only do they all taste pretty much exactly alike, but also that they are virtually indistinguishable nutrition-wise as well! (Click pictures to enlarge.)

Dscn4651_1 Dscn4653

Here's the basic nutritional info for both products.  I've put it into table and graph form because, you know, you can never spend too much time analyzing Cool Whip.


Can you see the need for all three of these products to exist?  The fact that they all have about the same amount of carbs/sugar makes it impossible to argue that one of the diet versions is preferential for Atkins people and the other is better for low-fat people, and the differences in calories and fat are not really staggering.


I mean, I guess you could argue that Free has 40% fewer calories than regular and that's technically a significant percentage, but in my opinion you'd just be manipulating statistics.  We're talking about 10 calories here.  That's not a lot.  You'd have to be eating, like, three tubs of Cool Whip per day for this to be making any significant impact on your life.

Who should stay, then, and who should go?  I'm not gonna play God here--that's for someone else to decide.  (You, of course.  In the comments.)

UPDATE (8:20 p.m.): Went grocery shopping today and saw that Cool Whip Extra Creamy also exists.  25 calories, 2g of fat. Good God.