Wednesday, July 20, 2011

889 Too Much Data

889 Too Much Data

“Your heartbeat is irregular.” The machine that measures blood pressure had that little aside one day this week.   It didn’t actually come out and say it.  It flashed a little symbol that looks kind of like an electrocardiogram and that’s what that symbol means, at least according to the instruction book.

Omygod!  Irregular heartbeat!  Another step closer to death’s door.  Yikes!

Okay.  Let’s be scientific about this.  It may be a “false positive.”  Let’s re-check.  

Hmmm.  No more irregularity on the second try.  But wait.  Maybe that was a “false negative.”  Is there such thing as a false negative?  Should we call 911?  

“What is your emergency, sir?”  

“I had an irregular heartbeat!”

Or even worse:

“I had an irregular heartbeat followed by a false negative.”

They’d send someone, alright.  Guys in white coats and carrying huge butterfly nets.

With absolutely no personal or family history of serious heart trouble, the machine is either an electronic wiseguy or it provided too much data.  Or both.

Note, too much DATA, not too much information.  Most dictionaries no longer make this distinction, but here’s a reason to mark them wrong.  There IS a difference and it’s an important one.  

There was no “information.”  But there was a datum.

Maybe such a datum should not be in the hands of the average user.  Or maybe the machine should be less sensitive to what probably is an anomaly.  

On the other hand, maybe someone should make a machine that measures data overload in your brain.  Get that little symbol on the heart machine and you go right to the brain machine, which tells you “hey, Jack, you over-reac’.”

In any event, the will’s in order (thanks Robert Shapiro and the rest of your Legal Zoom Dream Team,) and the bills are mostly paid.

If you don’t see something new in this space day after tomorrow, it’s probably because your correspondent should have called 911 and didn’t.

Shrapnel:  

--Cheers for Glen Campbell, who triumphed in this first concert since announcing he has Alzheimer’s.  Yeah, he needed a teleprompter, but that’s no sin.  And yeah, he botched a few lyrics, but so would anyone at age 75 -- he still sings pretty and plays brilliantly, but enough face lifts, Glen.

--Attempts to reach the main news page of the London Sun earlier this week first redirected us to a story about Rupert Murdoch being found dead in his garden and then to a Twitter page of parodies.  Hackers at work. C’mon, guys, all we want is to see the daily page three pictures of naked ladies.

--And THIS was on the website of the local paper here in Mount Tantamount PA early one morning: Our site is currently undergoing a redesign and will be back in a couple hours.  (Emphasis added.)  Guess the editors had the night off.  Or even worse, they didn’t.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com.
© WJR 2011

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