Becky, snowshoe racing in Wisconsin.
Note the hat: it’s Packer spirit wear;
she’ll be cheering Greenbay during
Sunday’s Superbowl.

Well, it’s here — the Snowstorm of the Century has hit Chicago. I’m not quite sure how significant that is in a century that’s only 11 years old, but we’ve definitely got accumulation, with some serious shoveling and treacherous driving conditions. My kids are thrilled to have a snow day — the first in our school district in decades.

Chicago averages about 38 inches of snow a year, but for three years running we’ve topped the 50-inch mark and it looks like we’re well on our way to a fourth. Lucky for me, I thought to bring my snowshoes home from our last visit to our farm house up in Wisconsin, where we have plenty of room to practice snowshoeing.

Recently, our family has taken up snowshoe racing on during weekends up north. Snowshoes were developed in Central Asia around 6,000 years ago, but they’re still pretty new to us. We’ve been having a lot of fun. In a race a couple of weeks ago, out of a field of 140, Jay came in first overall; Becky, Jackson and Doug also medaled. I managed to finish … without falling.

Statistically, of course, the results of a single race aren’t that important, except for bragging rights around the dinner table. Four years of above average snowfall don’t really mean much statistically, either. In our industry, these results would be called anecdotes.chicago snowstorm 2011

There are a couple of famous quotes that make the rounds about anecdotal evidence. The first is attributed to Raymond Wolfinger, professor emeritus of American Politics at the University of California, Berkeley. In response to a student’s dismissal of a simple factual statement as a “mere anecdote”, Wolfinger responded: “The plural of anecdote is data.” In the second, the quote has been bastardized and more often misrepresented as “The plural of anecdote is not data.”

But Wolfinger was right. Anecdotes are stories. Data collection is meaningless unless you understand the story it represents. As quantitative specialists, you are the interpreters of data — you tell the stories so the data make sense to your audience. That’s your job. Here at Burtch Works, we want to help you make sense of the marketplace. That’s our job. Please let us know if we can help.


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