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The Bell Curve

Posted by Mick on May 6, 2010 – 8:11 pm

As we move through this life, we’ll experience good days, and we’ll experience bad days.  It’s inevitable.

If I learned anything in Graduate School, it’s that, given a large enough sample, almost everything we can measure in the human condition will be evenly distributed according to a very predictable pattern.  It’s called the Bell Curve, and it looks like this.

Borrowed from

The line straight up the middle is the mean.  That means average.  For whatever you’re measuring, 50% will be above that line, 50% will be below that line.  Look at the two lines on either side of the mean.  Those lines are 1 standard deviation from the mean.  About 68% of what you’re looking at will be within those two lines.  We can usually consider anything within 1 standard deviation to be average, or normal.  I hate the term normal though, so let’s say typical instead.

Look at the next two lines.  Those are two standard deviations from the mean.  Damn near everything falls within two standard deviations from the mean.  That’s about 96%.

And that leaves us with the last 4 percent.  We don’t even want to talk about being above or below average now.  Oh no.  Now you’re looking at freakishly outside the norm.

Hey Mick, how about an example?  You’re on.  Let’s talk male height in the USA.  The average male height is 5′10″.  Half of us are taller, half are shorter.  There’s a standard deviation of 3 inches.  So 68% of American males fall between 5′7″ and 6′1″.  96% of American men are between 5′4″ and 6′4″.  If we go up to 3 standard deviations, we find that only .015% of American men are 6′5″ or taller.

I tell you that so I can tell you this.  On a scale of suckitude, today is at least 3 standard deviations away from the mean.  Which is to say, today sucked.  Big time.

It’s not the worst day ever.  I’ve had worse days, just as I’ve seen men who were 7′ tall.  But just because you’ve seen a 7′ tall guy doesn’t make the 6′8″ guy any less tall.  you’re still going to see that guy and say “Damn, he’s tall”.

Note, I could have gone the other way and talked about freakishly small people.  It really would have been the same discussion, except for one thing.  I think really short people are awesome.  Given the choice, I’d rather hang out with a little person than a giant.  I realize that’s a rather insensitive comment, some might even call it size-ist, but it’s simply how I feel.  Little people are cool, tall people freak me out a bit.  But I digress.

SIDE NOTE:  All I can think about right now is the Dewey Cox song, Midget Man.

Today sucked.  That’s where I was going.  I’m trying very hard to maintain some perspective, which is something I have difficulty with on the best of days.  Today is not the best of days.

At this point, I could go down the list of all the things that sucked today, and you’d probably say Damn, that sucks! You’d be right.  That , however, would be less than productive, and not at all in keeping with the idea of “perspective”.  Instead, I’m going to count my blessings.

This goes against my nature.  By nature, I’m a cynical bastard.  I’m a pessimist.  I’m not a glass half full guy.  I’m not a glass half empty guy.  My glass is cracked and the other half of my liquid is going to slowly drain out onto the floor where it will stain the carpet and I’ll lose my deposit, and this is why we can’t have nice things.  Oh, and bite me.

Ooooops.  Angry Mick was starting to come out.  Everyone say hello to Angry Mick.  And then say goodbye.  He’s going back into his box.

My blessings.  First and foremost, I have a wonderful wife.  Actually, scratch that.  First and foremost, I have a wonderful friend and companion who shares my life, good and bad.  She happens to be my wife, but she was my friend and companion first.  No matter how bad today is or was, I know that I can go home tonight and she’ll be there.  That’s damn special. And she’s hot.

I’ve got a wonderful family, and I’ll get to see a good chunk of my family this weekend.  But that’s another story.  And oh what a story that will be.  There will be blogging.  Does anyone want to come with us?  We’ll be eating pot-luck lunch in a cemetery.  How many of you have ever done that?  I bet most of you have never eaten a meal in a cemetery, let alone pot luck.  I do it every year.

Every.  Year.

I’ve got another great family.  My in-laws are rather awesome in their own right.  I like them.

And I have great friends.

So my job is a bit sucky.  It’s just a job.  I have to stop taking it so hard.  I have to stop letting it affect me so much.  It’s. Just. A. Job.

And even though my job is a bit sucky, my supervisor is excellent.  Things could be worse.  How sad is it that sometimes that’s the best thing I can say to pull myself out of the dumps?  Things could be worse.  Could be worse… could be raining.a

And just like that, I feel a bit better.  A bit of counting the blessings, with a dash of pop culture goodness, makes most of the sad angry things vanish.  That’s a good thing.

To help you with your bad feelings, I offer a little Dewey Cox, recorded live in Austin Texas by the gang at

Be good to each other.

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