Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

“Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics”

This week I got a survey from our real estate management firm, asking us how they are doing. As I filled it out, I had to smile. I have structured several surveys myself through the years. It is an art.

The first thing you need to know when you are putting a survey together is what you want the survey results to say. I’m a cynic. You can get a survey to show pretty much what you want it to show by choosing your questions carefully, limiting the ways a survey-taker can respond . . .thus the title. If you have an agenda, you can get the results you want.

Here is what our survey did not ask:

Do we communicate with you regularly and accurately? (Sometimes)

Do you understand what we are trying to communicate? (Sometimes we are laughing too hard to get it the first time)

Could our surveys use some work on grammar and spelling? (Oh YES)

When you submit a work request, do we respond and solve the problem in a timely manner? (Absolutely)

Given that the management, guards and maintenance team are all really nice people, are there ways in which we could improve our performance? (Yep)

If we could improve our performance in ONE way, what would you suggest? (Train the maintenance people well, supervise them closely, use checklists, and hold yourselves accountable for shortcomings.)

Hint: If you really want to structure an honest survey, have opened ended questions.

Before you ever take a survey, look through it and ask yourself “what end are they trying to achieve with this survey?” Many times, it is not the survey that matters at all (like online surveys) but getting your address and/or phone number so they can sell you something.

So I wanted to make sure I used the opening quote accurately, and Googled “damn lies and statistics.” Great results. Got the quote accurately, and got a fascinating article from BBC called How To Understand Statistics. Here is how the article opens:

The world is littered with statistics, and the average person is bombarded with five statistics a day.

1. Statistics can be misleading and sometimes deliberately distorting. There are three kinds of commonly recognised untruths:

Lies, damn lies and statistics.
– Mark Twain

This quote from Mark Twain is accurate; statistics are often used to lie to the public because most people do not understand how statistics work. The aim of this entry is to acquaint the reader with the basics of statistical analysis and to help them determine when someone is trying to pull a fast one.

Think about how stupid the average person is; now realise half of them are dumber than that.
– George Carlin

There are many books which teach statistics, but they are mostly big and heavy mathematical books, which cost a lot of money, and which may require a degree in the subject to understand anyway. For many years there has been a need for a

    Statistics for Dummies

book and in fact there is one, written by Deborah Rumsey. On the Internet information on how to understand statistics can be found, but the sites mostly cater for medical students who need to examine experimental drug studies, although a great online starting place is RobertNiles.com, which explains how to examine statistics for errors and how to create your own statistics correctly. . . . .

read more here.

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January 20, 2007 Posted by | Blogging, Communication, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Lies, Living Conditions, Social Issues, Statistics | 2 Comments

Taking “Normal” for Granted

Today a good friend sent a story about a guy driving a very expensive car and a kid hitting the car by throwing a brick. The guy stops his car, ready to kill, and the kid cries and says it was the only way he had to get his attention, he needs help getting his brother back into his wheelchair. The guy instantly goes from raging anger to compassion, and keeps the dent in the side of his car to remind himself that it shouldn’t take a brick to get his attention.

In the story, it says sometimes God uses a brick to get our attention.

I know, I know, you wonder where I am going with this.

It brings two very simple things to my mind. First, I have bored you more than once with my woes of jet lagging. Right now, I am sleeping great, although I am still falling asleep around nine at night, I am sleeping through the night. Thanks be to God! I wake up in the morning thankful for something so simple – a good night’s sleep.

Sleep isn’t so simple for those who suffer sleep deprivation – and their name is legion. My heart especially goes out to young mothers with their first baby . . . no one tells you how sleep deprivation can change your life. You think you can handle anything. Sleep deprivation is a big brick thrown into your life – it really gets your attention. Without adequate high quality sleep, life loses its lustre, and the simplest thing can be overwhelming.

Second, this is the time of year when many blogs feature colds and flu and lingering illnesses. I rarely get sick, but when I do – oh, I am such a baby. I don’t want concerned people around, I just want to be left alone to suffer. I just want the sickness to be OVER. And then, one day when it is gone – oh! how good it feels, just to be NOT sick! And I thank God for the every day blessing of good health!

We take so much for granted as we go through our daily lives. We forget how really good just being “normal” can be.

But maybe these are the bricks being thrown into our lives to get our attention, to help us to be thankful for our blessings?

Maybe slowing us down helps us to see things we might otherwise speed right by in the busy-ness of our active lives?

Maybe this is all a part of being thankful for the bad things that come into our lives, as well as the good? Alhamd’allah!

I think this is the first day of the Islamic New Year. If so, wishing my Moslem friends all the blessings of a new and, God willing, abundant and peaceful year.

January 20, 2007 Posted by | Blogging, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Health Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Random Musings, Spiritual | Leave a comment