It seems to me that one of the eye-openers that comes with writing an opinion column such as this is the reaction, the response by readers to something I have written.
Some of my stuff addresses a subject I think is important such as the issue of the proposed rule to take tips from tipped employees; others are what I call “fluff” pieces about something I consider relatively insignificant in the greater scheme of things. Oh, I get reader response about more serious matters, but what kinda baffles me is the reaction to a “fluff” piece or a “casual” comment. Yep, if my memory serves me correctly, my recent description of entry into the world of “smart phones” generated more reader response than anything I have ever offered in the many years of this column so I thought I’d share a few.
John L. sent me the following e-mail which I have edited for length. “ I especially wanted to respond about pacemakers. Bill, as an engineer I carried tools of my trade in my shirt pocket all through my career (including my) calculator, cell phone, etc. So when my pacemaker was installed last year I was shocked when my cardiologist told me I could never again carry my cell phone in my shirt pocket. Around the house, it’s fine to carry my cell phone in my blue jeans hip pocket but when in the car, with seat belt fastened, there is no way to get into that pocket.”
“When I dress for church, of course the cell phone goes into the right pocket of my sport jacket, but I’ve found a solution for casual dress. I bought two pairs of pants, one blue and one khaki, called “cargo pants” and what that seems to mean is that there are pockets on each leg below the hip pocket. Now I can carry my cell phone in that lower pocket where I can get to it even when I’m locked into my seat belt.” John, thanks for the tip for those of us with pacemakers.
Okay, what else popped up about those old fashioned flip-top cell phones and modern smart phones? Well, a surprising number of folks let me know that they, too, have flip-tops. “Leland” and “Jewel” (not their real names) use theirs for conversations, voice mail, and some texting, but confided they are apprehensive that they, like me, may be given smart phones by grown children and be faced with trying to figure out how to use them.
On the other hand, “Carol” revealed she has a flip-top, but never turns it on. Perhaps she, like “James,” figures the phone is to make calls, not receive them. I’ve had a number of folks offer help in my quest of figuring out how to use my new smart phone. One problem has been how to answer an incoming call. “Doreen” and “Gerald” both tried to assist, but apparently neither of their smart phones used the same procedure and neither worked on mine. “David” finally explained the appropriate procedure so I can now answer an incoming call and “Byron” clued me in how to make calls. Yep, I’m getting there, thanks to you.
OK, moving on. In my column about “studies” I noted, “A second major flaw [with some studies] is that correlation between events is not the same as causation.” Douglas A. reacted to this comment, but before I reveal his response, I figure I’d better explain my statement a bit more. According to the Bureau of Statistics, correlation is, “A statistical measure (expressed as a number) that describes the size and direction of a relationship between two or more variables.” While causation “indicates that one event is the result of the occurrence of the other event; that is, there is a causal relationship between the two events. This is also referred to as cause and effect.” The classic causation vs. correlation example that is frequently used is that smoking is correlated with alcoholism, but doesn’t cause alcoholism. Smoking, on the other hand, causes an increase in the risk of developing lung cancer. Back to Douglas who wrote: “Regarding correlation vs. causation, I frequently visit a comics web site where I found an appropriate comic. This comic is a dialogue between two people: “ Person 1: I used to think correlation implied causation. Then I took a statistics class. Now I don’t. Person 2: Sounds like the class helped. Person 1: Well, maybe.” Douglas: “I liked it so much I had a T-shirt made of it.” Folks, you may have to think about it a bit, but it’ll come.
You know, when I was putting this together, I was wondering how to finish it, but then I recalled an e-mail from a reader who wrote: “I enjoy your columns. Keep ‘em coming.” To paraphrase her, “I enjoy your comments. Keep ‘em coming.” I can’t think of better closing.
At least that’s how it seems to me.
Bill Taylor, a Greene County Dailies columnist and area resident, may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.