Thursday, August 10, 2006

Meta Rant

I noticed a problem with my blog so far: it needs more rants. If I’m going create a blog titled “bather-n-rants” then, god dammit, I should have some rant postings!

So I set out to create a good ole rant about a controversial topic that I had a strong opinion about. Being the detail-oriented freak that I am, I wanted to verify the sources on the primary topic, but I was equipped with a story from “comedy central” (, so I thought it would be easy.

It’s times like these that I wonder if there is something seriously wrong with me. I mean, I know that there are things seriously wrong with me, but when I have such trouble finding things on the net, I wonder if, among my problems is a difficulty with searching the web.

So I go to the NPR site and look for the story, using the tag lines that I’m interested in. 5 jillion responses, sorted by date. “Ha!” sez I, “since this was a recent story, it should be right hear!” I find a story that looks promising and bring it up. Zip. OK, I’ll just try variations on the search terms. More hits, still zip.

Alright, I’ll just google the search terms and see what comes up. Everything and nothing, depending on how you do the search. On the “everything” side (a mere 300,000 hits) I don’t see a whole lot that is promising, so I finally narrow it down to something manageable and still come up empty-handed.


Long story short, I finally found what I wanted on the NPR site, buried in a story that I had already looked at. It seems that, the reference I was looking for was not in the summary or write up, hence scanning through the article yielded nothing, but if you listen to the feed for the story itself it’s in there.

OK, whatever.

So I listen to the story several times to find the pundit/expert that blathers about said controversial issue. In addition to other stuff, said expert mentions a “recent story” from “around here” that contains the annoying issue. No name for the story, no date, no publication.

Alright, well NPR does mention this person’s name and where they work. I try that and succeed in finding the site. It contains studies, news articles, etc. so I try the site search. Zip. OK, vary the terms, etc. still zip. So I try googling the person’s name. Some hits, but not what I’m looking for.

In short after a couple of very annoying, tedious, frustrating hours, I cannot confirm this person’s story.

This “expert” had reported on a trend or whatever and I wanted some basic facts about it: who originally reported it? When was it reported? How many people is it based on? Is this a growing trend, and if so, how quickly is it growing, etc.

One of things I find annoying about news from TV, newspapers, etc. is what Scott Adams of Dilbert fame calls “context free information.” I’ll hear a story like “235 people died from coronary-bypass mad cow disease” or some such gibberish, and then I wonder: is that a lot? Is that in one year, or over a longer period of time? Is that all in one area, or the entire world? People consider the risks of driving to be acceptable, for comparison’s sake, how many people die on the highway each year?”

I guess the moral of the story is that, rather than checking your facts, it is better to just rant. If I had made outrageous claims and then spewed forth several paragraphs based on this shaky premise, I could have had a nice rant on my site.

Instead, all I have is some blather about not being able to rant.

Perhaps this is "rant envy."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Never take anything at face value, not even articles on NPR...

Bias is built in to everything whether you know it or not. Even the author may not be aware of it.