"Random"

According to Ramsey theory , ideal randomness is impossible especially for large structures. For example, professor Theodore Motzkin pointed out that “while disorder is more probable in general, complete disorder is impossible”. Misunderstanding of this can lead to numerous conspiracy theories and misunderstandings. I got off on this subject because of a news item today about the military draft that ended in 1973. It was based on a “random” selection of birthdates which many complained was not truly random.

My issues with the idea of random came when I was asked to “randomly select” medical samples for testing. I used a simple random number generator to choose which samples would be used. Problem was that the person in charge saw a pattern in the dates, times, sex, blood types or sample numbers of the resulting group and so felt the result was not truly random. One of his complaints was that all the samples selected happened to all be A+. I pointed out that over 90 percent of the samples were A+ so it would be natural for a large number of the random samples chosen to be A+. For example, if a group has 10 red balls and 90 black balls a selection of ten from this group will not necessarily result in 1 red and 9 black. There might not be any red at all. Similar issues came with time – most samples were drawn between noon and 2:00 with very few drawn outside that timeframe, most samples were from males, so I wasn’t too surprised that all samples chosen were male and all were drawn between noon and 2:00.

The final “random” sample list was chosen by printing the sample numbers on slips of paper, dropping them in a hat and drawing slips. Even then most samples were male, all were A+ and drawn between noon and 2:00pm a very good representation of the samples and not unexpected based on the distribution of the original data. The doctor in charge changed out some of the samples to include additional females, some drawn outside the noon -2:00pm timeframe and at least one sample that was not A+. He created a sample list that suited his idea of what “random” should look like.  

The Macy’s Star and Customer Service Thoughts

As a kid going “Downtown” was a treat! It meant clothes shopping because there weren’t the local malls that there are today. Mom and I would go by bus with the plan to spend some hours and also to have lunch. Lunch out was a special treat!

Rhodes department store (closed years ago), The Bon Marche (later The Bon and now Macy’s), JC Penney (closed), and Fredrick and Nelson (later Fredrick’s, now closed) where the standards. There was also Best (later merged with Nordstrom) but we went there only rarely as the prices were generally higher. It depended on what we were looking for where we went. Simple clothes for school: Rhodes or JC Penney, something a bit more special The Bon or perhaps Fredrick’s. Mom and I made a lot of my clothes and never bought a fancy dress, but fancy dresses were frequently copied from something we saw at Fredrick’s or Best. Lunch was usually in one of the department stores but we saved the Tearoom at Fredrick’s for a special Christmas treat.

Christmas was a particularly special time. We would watch the trains in the window at The Bon Marche, explore the toy department and see if the Fredrick’s windows were the same or had changed this year. Of special import was the gigantic star on the corner of The Bon. It is good to know that it will be repaired and in place this year, but it is sad that Macy’s will be closing in 2020. Effectively that means Nordstrom’s will be the only department store left in downtown. Sorry Ross and similar lack class so don’t count. The department stores of my younger years had class and, like Nordstrom’s, a guarantee that can’t be beat and service which was deserving of the name.

I’m kind of wandering….started out thinking about The Star and now am thinking about the service, or lack thereof, that is provided by the stores of today. Every Monday I take the bus from my home to St. Mark’s Cathedral for my EfM (Education for Ministry) class. Afterwards I take the bus home which takes me into Downtown to change buses. It is not uncommon for me to do an errand or two along the way. I was recently in Macy’s. With Christmas coming I thought I’d look for a fancy sweater – NOT an ugly Christmas sweater but a nice one that was not too Christmas specific. I found one I liked a lot and it was really inexpensive! At the Customer Service counter I was told I could get faster service if I went….point down an aisle…over there. I considered not moving as there was only one person in front of me but…Ok – I went. There was no one at the counter, no bell to ring to get someone and no one in the area at all. I started back towards the counter I’d been at originally but there were now 5 people in line. <sigh> I walked back towards counter #2 but there was still no one in the area so I left the sweater on the counter and left. This is the third time in two months I’ve not made a purchase because I could not find someone to wait on me. I guess I’m not too surprised they will be closing. Perhaps though I’m being saved from myself as I did not really need to make the purchase. Still….I really liked that sweater.

Graduation season

It has been over 50 years since I graduated from high school, but I do think about it at graduation season for the latest “babies”. “Babies” that would not make me popular, but they do seem to be such babies. Ah me! I was one of the babies in 1967. So full of ourselves and certain we knew all things and were destined for big things! Life is not about certainty, but it is about BIG things. Unfortunately, we do not recognize the big things until long after they happen to us.

Life is about growing and moving forward with one thing folding into and making possible the next. Frequently the experiences that move us forward have nothing to do with where we thought we were going!

I was going to be a chemist. I was going to help discover important new products. What I discovered instead was a love of math and computers and of helping others find ways to be more effective and efficient in whatever they did.

While in college I rather quickly changed from a major in Chemistry to Math. Along the way I was also encouraged to look at teaching in elementary school not junior high or high school. I was little: 5’3” and weighed 103lbs. soaking wet! I also looked young. Doing September experience in a junior high I was asked for my hall pass! I was wearing a suit and heels, but the teacher thought I was a junior high student. This was embarrassing at 22!

I’d decided as a math major, I should learn something about computers. To help pay for my expenses I worked in the computer center where, to my surprise, I discovered I loved working with computers! The scene was set.

Teaching elementary was definitely not something I wanted to do. Unfortunately, as a woman looking for a job in Data Processing in 1972 only key punch or something secretarial were available to me. I became an Escrow Analyst for a loan servicing company where my typing accuracy and math skills were valued. Eventually my experience in college in the computer center paid off as I was hired as an operator for a computer that was very similar to the one in the computer center. That led to a systems analyst position which led to data systems specialist and my education background led to teaching adults. A long the way I achieved a master’s in software engineering and a master’s in education with a specialty in designing/developing education materials for face-to-face and online learning.

Finally, I was helping people be more effective and efficient! It took a lot of years and it is only in looking back that I see the movement towards a goal I did not know I had until I had reached it.

I am basically retired in that I do not have a full-time job, but I still do work that I hope helps people to be more effective and efficient. I’m not sure I’ve accomplished any truly big things, but I am certain I still make contributions to the lives of those around me and I do help them be more effective and efficient.

Making Amends?

I watched “Girl on the Train”. This is the story of a woman who is an alcoholic. Now I’m not going to tell the story but an important thing, and the reason I’m writing this at all, happened to her. The character has recently gone to an AA meeting and may have learned about the steps including the one that is to make amends. She reaches out to apologize for something she did only to find out that what she had been told happened was not true at all. In effect, she had nothing to apologize for, at least in this case. 

It got me thinking, well more remembering. My brother was an alcoholic. I do not know how many times he “did the steps” of AA and it does not matter. He called me on Wednesday, March 31, 2010. I was driving but had a Bluetooth so there was no problem talking with him. As we talked, he apologized for “causing me trouble”. I loved my brother. I was lucky. My big brother was four years older. Many times, he made my life easier. When we were young, I was allowed to “go to” when he and his friends did things as long as I could keep up. He would then give me a leg up, hold a branch, take my hand for balance walking a log so I could keep up. Of course, they all liked it when I could and did climb the cherry tree. Being light I could reach the succulent Bing Cherries way up at the top and out on the thin branches.

His help did not stop as we grew older. When Glen and I were in a crisis, we rented my brother’s RV, so we had a place to live. Rent simply matched his payments. I loved my brother and knew he loved me. We did things for each other. We were there for each other even if sometimes it was extremely uncomfortable, and I would rather have not been there, but I was. Caused me trouble? Yes, he did but I loved him, and I know there were times I caused difficulties for him.

As we talked that day, Wednesday March 31, 2010 I had to pull over as I had started to cry. I’m glad that we had the chance to talk. I’m glad he had a chance to ask forgiveness and receive my assurance that everything was fine.

Good Friday, April 2, 2010 my brother died. We had no unfinished business.

The Dress

There are lots of commercials as we approach Mother’s Day about gifts for Mom. One in particular – looking at a rack of clothes and letting Mom choose, reminded me of something from when I was in junior high.

I decided one year I was going to make my Mom a dress. I wanted to do it with care and attention to exact fit but as a surprise. I would have to measure a dress I knew fit her well rather than measuring and fitting as I went. I also would have to sew after school but pick up every thread and put everything away before she got home from work. I would still have to do my chores including make dinner or she’d wonder what I was spending my time on that I was not getting done what I was supposed to.

I designed and created the pattern then measured and sewed and cleaned up for many days and was really pleased with what I produced. While everyone was at the breakfast table on Mother’s Day, I hung the dress in the living room. When she entered the room and saw the dress, she exclaimed over it then hugged and thanked….my Dad! I ran to my room in tears.

Daddy came telling me it was so well done she thought he’d purchased it from a fancy shop. I was not sure that helped at the time but when she wore it, she told everybody I not only made it but designed it specifically for her. All was well and my heart was glad!

Build a Wall?

It troubles me that folks are so polarized over the budget and associated stuff that people are suffering. It is the responsibility of our lawmakers to help not hurt the people they serve! THEY are being paid but aren’t getting the job done! But let’s think about the central issue ….. The Wall.

I’m probably naive but it seems to me we are looking at this the wrong way. Those in favor want a wall for border security. They want border security to prevent illegal activity including, but not limited to, keeping illegals from getting benefits. Ok. That is a legitimate issue. They want border security to prevent illegal trafficking. OK. That is a legitimate issue also. Unfortunately it seems like a ridiculous and ineffective way to solve the problem so how about if we consider solutions that might actually work.

I have no issue with wanting funds to help solve these issues. I have an issue with the idea that a wall is going to solve the problem!

Issue – people get fake IDs to use to get benefits
Solution – spend money on equipment and training so fake IDs are recognized thus preventing illegals from getting benefits

Issue – drugs are brought across the border
Solution – Make drugs legal. Keep in mind there was a time when alcohol was illegal and there was a serious enforcement issue. If there was no such thing as an illegal drug the illegal activity associated with them would vanish.

Issue – other illegal items brought across the border
Solution – spend money on the needs of law enforcement to enforce the laws.

Bottom line – spend money to fix the system where it is broken and support those who enforce current laws. There is talk about the wall creating employment but how about if we employee people to solve the issues rather than create a wall that in the end would be ineffective?