You Know You’ve Been Doing Too Much Analysis When…

I’ve been hard at work these last couple of weeks, doing a lot of annoying and kind of tedious retrospective analytical stuff. It’s not just year-end stuff, but decade-end stuff – “A Comparison of Commercial Sugarbeet Production in North and South Pastafazool, 2000-2009”, and so on. (Appendix A: Estimated Crop and Arable Land Losses Due to Conflicts in the Disputed Border Region of Shazam, 2004-2008; Appendix B: Regional Expenditures on Beet-Boring Beetle Eradication, 2000-2008; Appendix C: Estimated Domestic Sugarbeet Consumption in North and South Pastafazool, 2000-2009, by Ethnic Group…) 99% of the time this is really deathly boring, but every once in a while you stumble across some great and amazing insight, and it makes it all worthwhile… for a little bit, anyway. (“Huh, only 5% of sugarbeet farmers in the border region are oft-persecuted ethnic-minority Pastafarians, but they account for 95% of the reported post-conflict losses from landmines. Interesting…”)

Anyway, this means that I’ve been living, breathing, eating, and in some cases sleeping numbers and statistics and pattern analysis for a while, and I think it may be taking it’s toll…

Over the weekend, I was about to clean the catboxes when one of my roommates commented quite innocently that lately it seems like the upstairs litterbox gets used more than the ones in the basement, which used to be far and away the cats’ favorites.

It was a casual offhand comment, but it got me thinking, as I scooped poop from litterboxes. (Hey, I do a lot of my best contemplation while scooping out catboxes…)

What information would I want to collect to plot litterbox usage over time? Dates, for obvious reasons. Litterbox location, of course. Day of week, to see if human behaviour patterns affect the cats’ toilet routines (i.e. they poop upstairs more on weekends, when more of us are home). Weather.

As I swept the floor, I pondered how to quantify the cats’ deposits. By number? Volume? Weight? Would the disparity between weight and volume of liquid versus solid waste affect the results? Was there an easy and accurate way to quantify the number of cat visits to the litterboxes, rather than the number of – ahem – data samples they left behind?

When comparing upstairs versus downstairs litterbox usage, how should “surprises behind the couch” be tallied? Should hairballs and other oral expulsions be tracked? Should the cats’ dietary history be taken into account? (i.e. if we give them wet food more often, do they poo more? What happens when they escape through an open door and eat grass?)

Eventually I realized I was – urgh! – trying to analyze the behavior of cats, for crying out loud – or at least that of their rather delicate lower intestinal tracts. I’d be better off trying to estimate what effect the Russian Navy’s increased operational tempo will have on contraceptive consumption both domestically and in their overseas ports of call, or something of equal importance.

I have relatively high confidence that I need a vacation.

(Obligatory disclosure: I haven’t actually examined anything to do with sugarbeet production, anywhere, imaginary war-torn country of Pastafazool or otherwise. Nor have I examined prophylactic usage among Russian sailors, or the recreational habits of Russian sailors on foreign shore leave, as fun and exciting as that might be. As far as I am aware, Pastafarians are no more likely to be killed by landmines than any other minority group, real or imagined. I don’t know whether there really is a Beet-Boring Beetle. Some names and details were changed for reasons of national security, job security, or comedic value.)

Published in: Geekiness | on January 19th, 2010| Comments Off on You Know You’ve Been Doing Too Much Analysis When…

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