Dear Data Geek, where is my sister, and what have you done to her?

For as long as I can remember, including her entire adult life, my sister has always seemed allergic to numbers. She was a straight-A student, so did well in math, but only because she worked at it. However, she was never comfortable with numbers or mathematical concepts. I, on the other hand, thought math was fun. Maybe it was a self-fulfilling prophecy as growing up our mother would joke that the reason I excelled in math was because I substituted dollars for apples and oranges when doing word problems.

Fast forward to when my sister was 40+ years old and her husband was fired. She was panicked because she did not know the first thing about personal finance and was certain it would take an M.B.A. (she has a theater arts degree) to understand it. I sarcastically asked her if she could add and subtract, and when she acknowledged she could, I let her know she was more than qualified. However, it was my "light bulb moment" because the resulting conversation made me realize it was the financial terminology that was creating the problem, along with the fact she was creating roadblocks in her mind that did not need to exist.

Fast forward … Today, my sister's youngest daughter plays volleyball and loves the statistics – whether hers, her teammates, or the team and where they stand in terms of the competition. Is she a math wizard? Probably no more so than her mother, but her attitude toward numbers and statistics is very different. She loves them because they intrigue her and have a purpose. So much so that, much to her mother's amazement, she voluntarily took a statistics course. Which is something I would have done (actually, I did take mathematical statistics as an elective in college).

So, imagine my surprise when my sister started analyzing the statistics provided by MailChimp on last week's email newsletter – letting me know open rates and click rates, and even comparing them to previous email campaigns. We only started using MailChimp a few months ago (shortly after we launched our new website), creating newsletters to provide our followers with food-for-thought (we have nothing to sell – as we have not even put our bestselling book on the site … yet).

I know that if I had asked my sister to "analyze data" she would have freaked out (that is her default setting), but because the numbers had a purpose and were clearly presented, her curiosity prompted her to review them. Which, besides giving information on our email campaign, provided proof that …

When something is relevant, we seem to ignore the mental roadblocks that we might otherwise have built.
Photo by ideeone on iStock


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I'm still shaking my head, in amazement and amusement, at you telling me how there are people claiming that birds aren't real – they're surveillance drones.


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At first, I thought it was a joke. But then, I found a Newsweek article on the "Birds Aren't Real" movement that claims the government killed all birds and replaced them with surveillance drones.


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Well, if you hadn't forwarded it, I'd have thought you were messing with me! Anyway, my absolute favorite part is the "logic" that when the birds or drones or whatever you want to call them sit on powerlines, they're recharging. That's hilarious.
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When I read the "Breaking News" email about the passing of Colin Powell from complications from COVID-19, I realized that many of us didn't even know he was being treated for illnesses that weakened his immune system. To me, he always seemed to be one of those incredibly strong and resilient men that could overcome anything, as I knew he served as the country's first Black national security adviser (during the Reagan administration), chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (under President George H. W. Bush) and secretary of state (under President George W. Bush).

I first became aware of Powell during Operation Desert Storm and was living in Hong Kong at the time (shortly after I married a Brit, Shell assigned him to the Far East). I can remember being halfway around the world from home while watching seemingly non-stop news briefings featuring "Storming Norman" Schwarzkopf, with his "larger than life" details about the extraordinary precision of the airstrikes. At the time, it almost seemed more like a computer game than an actual war.

However, Powell had a far greater impact on me as he exuded calm mixed with steely determination, projecting an air of confidence that you sensed came from experience and deep personal commitment. And at this time of war and conflict, he provided a comforting feeling of power and control.


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I will not pretend to be a history buff, nor will I reflect on Mr. Powell's greatness as a military figure, statesman, and trailblazer. I will leave that to others. But, several things stand out about Powell as a man. First, he put America ahead of political party, stating, "I'm just a citizen who has voted Republican, voted Democrat, throughout my entire career, and right now I'm just watching my country and not concerned with parties."

Thanks to Punchbowl News, I learned that as a young man, he worked in a toy store, and the owner, a Russian immigrant Jew, admired the young Powell so much that he impressed upon him the importance of getting an education. Powell was so touched by this that he stayed in contact with him for the next 50 years. (I loved the sprinkling of Yiddish phrases as Powell tells the story.)

Of course, I could not help but smile rewatching this video of Powell along with two other motorheads, Jay Leno and (at the time) Vice President Biden "racing" Corvettes. And, may explain why one of my many favorite Powell quotes is, "Always focus on the front windshield and not the review mirror." But in his passing, you cannot help but look back over all he did for our country.

Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. May he rest in peace.

Design by Sawyer Pennington, Underlying photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash


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I can't believe that Halloween's almost here, and the house isn't already decorated. Can I use the fact this is the first year I'm an empty nester as an excuse?


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Does that mean that you are not going to decorate?


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No! But without Sawyer home asking about it or prodding me by pulling the decorations out of the garage, it's still just sitting on my "to do" list. But fall is my favorite time of year, and I love seeing the house with all the Halloween decorations, so it will happen.


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I would think you could just put out the inflatables and be done with it.
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