Tag Archive: email

Pictures of Pugs!

(Submitted by reader Jenny)

I work as a dogsitter part time, and for the past month, I’ve been taking two pugs, Tristan and Phinneas, to the Culver City dog park about twice a week.

Today I was browsing BuzzFeed articles and came across this one about excited dogs:


I was scrolling through, and at #17 saw the picture of a pug playing with a corgi. The pug, his harness, and the background looked like Tristan at the dog park, so I zoomed in and saw that he had the same (distinctive) pattern on his collar as Tristan!

After seeing the collar, I was sure that the picture was of Tristan, but there are other people who take those pugs to the park, so I didn’t know if I had been there that day. I went to an email I had sent to their owner a few weeks ago and saw that the video I’d attached was of Tristan playing with that same corgi! You can even see the girl with the camera walk into it in the last few frames!

As a sub-coincidence, that same day at the park, Tristan was bitten by a pit bull puppy (he was fine), and a few days later when I went to turn in some paperwork into an office at my school, the form-acceptance girl recognized me as the one whose pug got attacked, and it turns out she was the corgi’s owner, and the one who took the picture I later saw on buzzfeed!

I see this as a quintuple coincidence, composed of the following occurrences:
– I randomly came across a photo on the internet of a dog I know.
– The photo was taken on one of the 9 times I was with him.
– I am able to verify having been there by having taped the same encounter between the dogs.
– The person who took the photo happens to appear in my one 9 second video.
– The photographer works at my school, though neither of us recognized each other at the time.

As far as numbers, there are usually about 30 dogs at the park. I’ve been there 9 times, and have only seen a couple of people or dogs I recognized from prior visits. I have only taken pictures/videos of the pugs twice, so my collection consists of two photos and two videos. Aside from the pugs, I sit for other pets about twice a month, but the pugs go to the dog park.

I am a student at the UCLA School of Dentistry, and my school only has about 400 students and a similarly-sized staff. The dog park is one of two within 20 minutes of UCLA (and is the further of the two). Unfortunately, no data yet on the number of dog photos or buzzfeed articles I encounter per day!

Below are notes provided by cognitive psychologist and statistician Barbara Drescher.   Take a look and leave your comments below. Also, visit Barbara’s blog.

Let’s address the items that the author is excited about:

“- I randomly came across a photo on the internet of a dog I know.”

The author did not come across this photo “randomly”. Buzzfeed is an extremely popular site. In fact, I’m not even sure that it’s a coincidence that I saw this very post just last week, even though it was posted in March and it is now September. It’s a hilarious post, by the way. I highly recommend clicking that link; you won’t be sorry!

It also stands to reason that many of the content providers for Buzzfeed live in the LA area, given that it remains a large market for those working in entertainment.

“- The photo was taken on one of the 9 times I was with him.”

This is a bit of a coincidence, but not as much as the author probably thinks. It feels personal because it happened to her, but someone had to have been walking that dog when its picture was taken and the author is a dog sitter.

“- I am able to verify having been there by having taped the same encounter between the dogs.
– The person who took the photo happens to appear in my one 9 second video.”

Although there is some coincidence here, there is also the fact that the dogs were acting in a matter that made two people pull out their cameras.  I know that if I’d seen that cuteness, I’d have been shooting it, too.

“- The photographer works at my school, though neither of us recognized each other at the time.”

Keeping in mind that geography accounts for a lot of what looks like random chance, this is still probably the most interesting coincidence on the list, statistically speaking.

[EDITOR:  I’m with Barb on this – dog lovers, click on that link! – Wendy]


(Story submitted by reader David Buck)

I work on contract in the software development field and I specialize in Smalltalk programming – a relatively obscure programming language these days.  I normally have a full time contract but one day, my project leader told me that there would be a gap in the contract and it might be several weeks or months before they could get me back in.

I went into “find work” mode and thought about companies I’d done business with in the past.  I decided that I’d contact one insurance company first. I hadn’t heard from them since Nov 18, 2003 (some five years earlier).  The last I heard, they needed to do an upgrade and I thought that if they hadn’t done it yet, I might be able to help them out.

I frequently do this work under a subcontract for the Smalltalk vendor, so I decided to email my contact there – a fellow named Jim. On the morning of January 28, 2010, I emailed Jim to suggest that we contact the insurance company to see if they needed any work done.  I mentioned that I last heard from them in 2003.  Jim agrees and asks me to send him the email address of the contact person.  I don’t have that email address on my smart phone so I tell Jim that I’ll send it to him after I get home a few hours later.

Well, less than a few hours later (before I got home), I got an email out of the blue from the senior manager of the insurance company.  He wanted to know whether I still did that kind of work and whether I was available to do the upgrade work for them.  At no point did Jim or I communicate with them about this work.  They just sent the request on their own on the very day that we were planning to contact them.  I forwarded it to Jim and we started contract negotiations.

I ended up getting a contract with them for six months and successfully completed the upgrade for them.

So, what are the odds that in the three or four hours between Jim and I agreeing to email them and actually emailing them that they would email me instead after five years of no contact?  Weird.  The Law of Large Numbers works in mysterious ways.

Below are the extended notes provided by Barbara Drescher for use in Skepticality Episode 192. Take a look and leave your comments below.

First, I have to question the reliability of the timing this author outlines, because his (assuming the author is male) numbers don’t add up. The timing is not particularly relevant, but it does demonstrate a possible fallibility of memory or documentation.

Setting that aside, it sounds a lot more unusual than it is. The author not only knew the manager and had worked for him in the past, but knew that he’d done a good enough job that the manager might be interested in working with him again. So, it’s not unusual at all that the manager would call the author when he had work to be done.

This leaves the probability that the manager would need to hire someone on the day the author needed to find work. That is difficult to determine without a good understanding of what was going on in the industry at that time. I think we can all agree that it is an interesting coincidence, but not a shocking one.

I live in Los Angeles, CA. My friend who lives and works in Washington DC announced on Facebook that she has a new Twitter account name, so I entered that into the Twitter Find People feature, and followed her. We otherwise were Facebook friends, but I had not been following her on Twitter.

Within minutes, my email showed that she was following me, too. We exchanged Direct Messages. I told her I barely ever used Twitter to announce what I was doing, but preferred to use it like little emails, just for Direct Messages.

My cousin Steve also lives and works in DC. She wrote back the following: “Your cousin Steve (I think) was my Mac instructor the other day. How do I know? We were in my email and he saw you sent me a message.” I immediately thought: The Odds Must Be Crazy 🙂

[EDITOR: The same thing happened to me last week. Only instead of Twitter it was on <CENSORED> and instead of my Mac instructor it was my <CENSORED>. But otherwise exactly the same.]

Reading Aloud

(Submitted by friend of the blog, Spencer Marks)

Yesterday I was listening to a podcast, and trying to multi-task, and was also reading an e-mail while listening. My eyes rolled over the word “assume,” and just as I was reading that word, the speaker on the podcast SAID “assume” in the course of her speech. It wasn’t “close,” it was EXACT, like the speaker was reading the text to me! Of course, that was the only word that coincided, but it caught me off guard for an instant, like I had been listening to the e-mail, instead of reading it!

The Man in the Foreground

(Submitted by friend of the blog, Sherri Andrews)

I was sent this email this AM by my friend of 20+ years, Lee Harris. He is the eponymous ‘unusual man in background’. More unusual, to my mind, was that Jim Newman, fellow IIG member was the man in foreground!! Did I miss the part where he’s an actor? Anyway… what are the odds??  🙂

The Bird is the Word…

(Submitted by reader Donald Chesebro)

Last night, a very loud bird outside my bedroom window kept me awake late and woke me several times through the night.

This morning, while checking e-mail and listening to the BBC’s World News Hour on my local NPR station, I was thinking of searching for a website with bird calls so I could try to figure out what kind of bird was being such a nuisance. Before I got to that, I suddenly heard the bird’s call on my radio.  It was almost exactly the same sound I’d been forced to listen to for hours.  The BBC was doing a report about the declining population of the nightingale in England.  They can have mine!!!

How Geeks Have Fun

(Submitted by friend of the blog, Ross Blocher from Oh No, Ross and Carrie!)

Recently I was teaching myself how to solve square roots by hand. As a practice number I randomly chose 532 and worked for a while to get the value out to the trillionth place… 23.065125189341. I realized it was getting pretty late in the day, and wondered if it was time to go home yet, and I looked up at the clock on my computer to find it was exactly 5:32. I did a double-take and looked back at the piece of paper… sure enough, the same number I’d just solved.

Oh, and this is weird. I’m finishing this email, and my clock says it’s 5:31. Spooky… :0)

In the  Sunday April 11th LA Times, there was an article, ‘Prayer vote polarizes Lancaster,’ that I posted on a discussion group. It mentioned the mayor of Lancaster, R. Rex Parris.

The same day, my friend Crystal Von Hagen posted in her Facebook status update that she “just found out that R. Rex Parris is the mayor of Lancaster and is shocked. I remember those crazy ‘let me help you sue people’ personal injury commercials he aired when I was a kid. How the hell did he make it to mayor. Just crazy.”  So one of her FB friends mentions on the thread that he used to live near R. Rex…

How I know Crystal is that her dad was a friend of my boyfriend at work for many years… and her dad brought her over to visit us just a few months before he died; that was about 10 years ago. I never knew where she lived when she was growing up.

She remained friends with us, and when Facebook came along, she and I became Facebook friends. She lives in San Diego, and is not associated with our group. I sent her an email to find out how she learned about R. Rex Parris being the Mayor. Her response is that, by coincidence, she had read the LA Times story the same day.

I think it is a funny coincidence that both she and I posted messages about R. Rex Parris on the same day on the internet.