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Jordan Heron - The Vanity Card Series

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On the news yesterday, I heard that the Toronto Police are concerned that the percentage of homicides for 2009 that involved guns increased by 66%. That prompted a new call to action to get guns off the streets - and increase public safety.

Now I don't want anyone to think that I am against making our streets safer. I have no desire to have armed thugs walking the Toronto streets at night. Even though I'm rarely in Toronto at night, and they wouldn't likely be shooting at me. What bothers me is the single statistic, and the meaninglessness of it.

What I didn't hear were numbers - just a single percentage. What if the number of baseball bat and knife murders went drastically down, and handgun homicides stayed the same? That would be a good news story, right? But it could lead to the same scary statistic - percentage of gun homicides rise. What if gun homicides went up, but, for the first time, every single one of them was a drug dealer. True, drug dealers don't necessarily deserve to be murdered, but "public safety" (at least for law abiding citizens) would be on the rise.

Statistics - when used in 30 second media stories, I hate them. I hate them without reservation. Because I KNOW that it doesn't tell the whole story. The single statistic they throw out there for mass consumption MAY be indicative of a problem - but how can I judge without the backstory and the full data?

I am naturally cynical. When I hear a story, my first thought is to examine the bias of the reporting body, and wonder what they're not saying.

I had to laugh a few years back when a radio news anchor did a story on how walnuts were good for your health. Proven, he said, by a scientific study. He ended, smirkingly (at least, I imagined that he was smirking - it was radio, after all), by pointing out that the study was paid for by the Walnut Producers of California, so you might want to consider the results in that light.

They say "The facts speak for themselves." Facts don't speak at all. They just lie there stupidly. Only interpretation gives them meaning.

Context is everything.

Fact: The base file for this vanity card, using a measure of bytes as calculated by my laptop, is ~8.5% smaller than the average file size for the previous 31 vanity cards.

I'll let you judge whether this affects the content or quality of the work.

17 March 2010

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