Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Comic 539: An Outlier, Indeed


Okay, I know you all come here to hear us complain about XKCD. But I can't find any fault with this one, though the alt text might make it fall under the "breakup comics" category. It wasn't even "not bad." I liked it. Like, seriously and legitimately.

I enjoy puns, it's true. Some people do not. But I feel like this is exactly the sort of "nerd meets romance" thing that Randall used to be so good at. What the comic used to be all about--not just referencing nerd culture or pop culture, but integrating it with real world scenarios. Oh, and the alt text carries along with the joke, and is funny! WHAT IS HAPPENING

Let me explore a few avenues of attack you might be able to take here. First, "your math is irrefutable." I think this very much depends on how much time he spends with the number of people he hangs out with! If he's hanging out with twenty people for an hour a week, and her for two hours, that's not very statistically significant.

If that number is five, and it's four hours per week for each one, eight for her, then she has a better case, but even then--that's only an extra four hours, easily explained by "you live closer" or "what we do when we hang out takes up more time." I've also spent a half hour with some people that was more worthwhile than six hours with other people. She would have to introduce a variable that accounts for the quality of time spent, and he could easily refute that by denying that it had any quality for him.

And it's not like you are required to give each person you're casually dating an equal amount of time.

But these aren't the sorts of nitpicks I can actually fault him for, they are just the closest thing I can find. I--I have failed all of you. I'm sorry. Please forgive me.

UPDATE: oh PS to all you useless people that are like "you guys just can't acknowledge when Randall makes a good comic you all suck" YEAH I ACKNOWLEDGED THAT I LIKED A COMIC WHAT NOW



  1. I'm glad you liked it. I liked it, too :).

  2. Today is a day when I live in harmony with the Cuddlefish.

  3. Though I hate to admit it, you guys are right- this one is kinda funny.

  4. I don't like this one, It's certainly a 'quirky relationship' comic. It's also yet another of Randalls detached-from-reality comics in which he tries to perpetuate the idea that girls are interested in this kind of nerdy stuff.

  5. Look, Cuddlefish, I don't know where you live, but where I come from, there are plenty of nerdy girls. I can think of two who definitely out-nerd me any day of the week, one who probably does, a ndseveral who at least match me for it. I'm not the nerdiest human alive but I'm more nerdy than your average individual. Girls are just as capable of being nerdy. In many cases they are better at it because they're better at being dilettantes.

    Not that I want to defend Randall, but at least don't attack him in such a misogynist way.

  6. guys, Guys, GUYS! Three in a row!
    For me, #536 is really like xkcd in its golden age.

    AND THE IMG TITLE DIDN"T SUCK! (it was actually funny) WOOOHOOO!

    Randal, please do a fourth that's as good, please!

  7. To me it seems like a rather lame joke. Just imagine a canned laughter track dubbed over the final frame.

  8. the cuddlefish in these songs should have names

  9. Really? I just started reading this site, and think it's pretty great. But I find XKCD funny on more occasions than I don't, and this was one of my least-favorite comics of all time! It's tjust totally pre-fab for a not-funny punchline. There's no imagination that goes into the narrative or the whole concept -- the art is the worst XKCD has ever come up with (girl talking on phone, two people talking, box-plot FER REAL, two people talking.) I'm sorry but it reads like open mic night at the improv club, where Randall's reading from a sheet of math jokes. "So I spend too much time with this girl....guess that makes her my statistically-significant other." Badoompsh.

    The alt-text redeems it a little, thank god. But it's just another example of what David Foster Wallace called the Carson Maneuver -- trying to gain sympathy by acknowledging the joke sucked.


  10. What can I say, I like bad puns.

  11. A good comic! Guys, pin it down, make sure it doesn't get away! But be gentle! We need to put a tracking ring on its leg and let it back into the wild to procreate.

    I'm so happy.

    {P.S. I have never met a nerdy girl either}

  12. Crosspost! No, Jared, the worst art XKCD ever came up with was the lesbian experimentation comic. That comic still makes me wince every time I see it (which is a lot of times, because fools keep postin' it on forums).

  13. Nerdy girls are most easily found in the city and on college campuses.

  14. Really? At my university the sad fact was if you walked into a maths/science lecture you'd see 98% males. (If you walked into, say, a history lecture the numbers would be more even)

  15. Well, this depends on your definition of nerdy. With the advent of Web 2.0 you have seen the definition expand quite a bit--you can now be a part of the internet culture without being one of the more traditionally geeky people, like science/math/compsci/engineering people. Now 'nerdy' can include design students, polisci people, artists, writers, etc.

    I do know a surprising number of girls who are sciencey types, actually, but that may be skewed by my proximity to Harvard/MIT/every other goddamn university in Greater Boston, and previously by the fact I was in Seattle, which is a highly technological city with some pretty decent science programs at the UW.

    But internet people can all find common ground to interact--celebrating the internet for all of its silliness, advocating free culture, and so on. So you can find nerdy girls in history and polisci and writing and design and law classes and they will fully and legitimately be a part of internet culture and just as nerdy as any math/science geek.

  16. (it is also worth pointing out: Randall is also in close proximity to Harvard/MIT/every single goddamn university in the Boston metro, and can also boast a popular webcomic that still holds a lot of positive currency in geek circles.)

  17. Where the shit do you people live without encountering nerdy girls? Bob Jones University? The goddamn tundra?

  18. ROB

    Can't you at least fake some anger? Can't you spruce up your post with some fury sauce, or a bit of vitriolic margarine? Something? Ranting about xkcd is one of my few chances for catharsis, and today it's been ruined. Ruined!


    (Imagine your mom reading that last line, but she's all ashamed of you and stuff)

    Here's some criticisms (baseless, poorly-informed, and largely exaggerated, but AT LEAST I'M TRYING ROB):

    1.) There's no such thing as "irrefutable math", Randall. How about pulling your head out of nerd "girl" crotches long enough to read up on some Goedel, eh? EH?

    2.) Your histogram has no units, Randall. It measures NOTHING in relation to NOTHING. YOU HAVE CREATED A USELESS HISTOGRAM AND I HATE YOU.

    3.) Three panels of build-up for a pun? It fails both as dumb humor (just get it over with!) and as failed-expectations humor (you would've needed at least 6 or 7 panels of build-up to effectively incite groan-inducing guilty pleasure from deep within the recesses of my scarred and blackened Humor Cortex).


    5. No real nerd would ever, EVER deny having a girlfriend. This comic is unbelievable to - no, beyond the point of absurdity.

    See, Rob? Not so hard. Note the overused all-caps text to generate humor, and the lack of regard for how well-formed or valid the criticisms are. That's how you do it.

    Now go fix this nonsense. You can thank me later.

  19. I know, I know, it was a... poore excuse for a rant.

  20. 1) I laughed at the pun. I love puns.
    2) I thought it was cute.
    3) The only thing more annoying than "GET OUT OF MY HEAD RANDALL" is this false idea that nerd girls don't exist.
    4) Outing people as homosexual before they are ready is not cool. Claiming that a guy is gay based on the fact that he seems to like women is just strange and also not cool.

  21. In terms of statistical significance I don't think your example works. Your scenarios would end up with standard deviations of .218 and 1.633, respectively. The amount he's seeing her is thus something like 9 and 5 times the standard deviation. Thus at a rough approximation of the significance tests I'm too lazy to do, the first scenario is actually pretty good. Mathematically. With real world knowledge, sure, yeah.

    But yeah this one was surprisingly good and similar to the xkcd of yore.

  22. I'm going with Rob here. You could complain about this comic, but when it comes down to it, if you don't like this comic, you don't like xkcd and probably never did.

    That's not the point of this blog.

  23. @Rob:

    Oh yeah? Well, you're a...rob...excuse...



    There is this thing. It's called "humor". It sometimes happens when you say things sarcastically, or satirically, and aren't actually being serious.

    I sometimes use humor, Sarah. It is a thing that I do. When I do this, I do not expect people to take me seriously. Actually, it's really annoying when people cannot recognize when I am not being serious and then try to come up with serious rebuttals to points that I made AS A JOKE.

    Then again, perhaps I misinterpreted your response, and you were also attempting humor, and we are both victims of the terrible inadequacy of the written word to express the subtleties of language.



    What if you like xkcd, but have always hated people who like xkcd?

  24. Didn't like it, but that's because I really hate puns that require elaborate set-ups. Say it, laugh at your own wittiness, and let us move on with our goddamn lives.

    That's not really xkcd's fault so much as my sense of humor though. I guess the comic has pulled out of its recent tail dive and into relative mediocrity. Congrats?

  25. This wasn't bad, but it wasn't funny, either. So congrats on not producing a steaming pile o'crap today, Randall, but I still haven't forgiven you for "DUCKLOOP'D."

  26. I liked this comic for all the (positive) reasons stated above.

    But I'm not buying that alt-text for a second. The comic is like the good ol' days, yes, but since when did a male in xkcd threaten to break up with a girl for making math jokes?

    Or perhaps this is an effort to balance out that time a girl broke up with a guy for making a chart. KARMA.

  27. I liked this one also, especially after the utter crap we've gotten recently. But the girl is definitely a stalker.

  28. Why do people think that nerdy girls don't exist? I'm one of the nerdiest people I know. Also many times there are closet nerds! OPEN YOUR EYES AND LOOK AROUND YOU FOR NERDS IN CLOSETS

    poore I love you more and more every day.

    I didn't like this one even though I did appreciate the pun because in every other aspect it was just like his other chart/relationships comics. It might have been funny if it were, you know, original.

  29. I will admit though that Randy indeed appears to be doing better lately.

  30. Girls? On the internet?


  31. Aww. I was a lot happier with this comic before I remembered it's a quote.

    (Of course that doesn't really make any difference since it's not one of the well-known quotes and that's probably not where Randall got it from, but it reminds me of 'HAHA DISREGARD THAT' from a while ago, and that one made me sad.)

  32. There are complaints you can make about this comic, but yelling "Goedel" isn't one of them. Unless I missed Goedel's "refutable math" theorem somewhere. You could probably yell some post-modernism instead, but that wouldn't really be any better.

  33. At my college, the math forum is filled with 100% women!

    Okay, it's a women's college. But still, we exist! Complaining about the comic because it suggests the existence of ONE nerdy girl is just silly.

  34. Meh, I liked yesterday's better. I don't know why.

  35. I liked it too! Especially the alt text. Cuddles for everyone!

  36. @dolio:

    I suppose I was trying to create subtle humor for those who actually understand Goedel's theorems by applying them incorrectly in a troll-like fashion.

    But once again, it was a comedic post, and I admitted IN THAT VERY POST that the arguments wold be terrible, so...yeah.

    (Actually, I was just throwing in a nerdy reference in hopes of pandering to my audience, without fully understanding said reference. I call it "Randall-izing" a post.)

  37. Well, good show, then.

  38. Agreed that this one was funny, but what exactly is that drawing the girl is pointing to in panel 3? A dot and some sort of box with arms?

    p.s. Nerdy girls do exist.

  39. Chris:
    Box with whiskers, soooo cuuuuteeee!!!!11

  40. poore:

    Well someone has to do the trolling when I am not! Yours are probably more subtle than my 'well-reasoned argument punctuated with fat jokes and existential insults.' (Usually I troll the fanboys, because they are just SO MAD and it is funny.)


    You aren't at Wellesley by some fell coincidence are you?

  41. Smith, damn you!

    Nah, Wellesley's cool though.

  42. I have known too many wellesley girls.

  43. Wellesley WOMEN, chauvanist!


  44. Maybe I would have liked the comic better if the last two lines of dialogue were in reverse order, but as it is I just think the last panel feels too forced. Maybe it's because I find that pun too easy to make and so feel like reading so many panels for a pun like that just wasn't worth it.

    Or maybe if the guy in the last panel instead shouted "Lies, damned lies, and statistics!" :D

  45. "Women" implies a certain level of maturity. The ones I know act like they are 16.

  46. Aha, I think I understand what I don't like. The line "Your math is irrefutable." just sounds so flat that it sucks all of the energy out of the argument before the punchline can even be made.

  47. holy CRAP there are a lot of comments. holy mother of god CRAP

    So yeah Rob sucks that you had to have this come up on your week - it's clearly leaps and bounds better than the last 50 or so comics (possible exception: lesbian experimentation, which despite its shitty art was a genuinely good joke, in a very very similar vein).

    One problem I had with it was how much it was like the very recent 523, in that the characters are scientifically charting out data to prove a point about relationships.

    Also, even a good comic at this point feels like Randall is reaching all around a lake of mud, desperately trying to find something funny and shiny, and almost always coming up empty, and then this one time he finds something shiny and I go "oh that's nice...don't be too proud though, look at that pile of shit you have been building up."

    In other words, a single good comic out of so many, while an important step, is not statistically significant.

    Nerd Girls - they absolutely exist. Look right over here: 67! But seriously, they do exist very much like that. I can introduce you to a whole lot of them.

    Jared - I'd say he deserves at least a little more credit on his pacing here. It's a very well constructed execution of what is, admittedly, a pun. Also I think it's a very strong pun, as these things go.

    Thank you also for "The Carson Maneuver" - that is a great way to think about a lot of self-deprecating-meta-joke (I hope my subtitle of "[a] vitriolic and bitter collection of unwarranted nastiness about a silly and harmless comic." doesn't count as one of those....)

    Sarah, you reminded me of a great simpsons line when Lisa starts dating school bully Nelosn - Nelson's friends say to him "You kissed a girl? that is so gay!"

    Adam I think you summarized this well. Dammit, I feel all dirty liking this comic but it is always good to know that I haven't totally given up hope and I don't have to assume they are all bad and then justify it.

    Poore, sorry you couldn't come up with a pun. Guess he Robbed you of a joke?

    Lint - totally agreed on the line "your math is irrefutable". It should be erased to give the dialogue a pause before the punchline. this would make it much stronger, and the line is so very boring on its own. What if the last line were the man saying "Lies! Damned Lies!" in a more subtle joke? Perhaps that would make a good alt-text, as I didn't like this one as much as others seem to have.

    The alt-texts seem to be getting worse - they had been holding out at "pretty ok" for a while now.

  48. I have nothing to say, but this will bring the comments almost to fifty!

  49. Lint: Yeah, "Your math is irrefutable" stands out as really stilted and unnatural. It's like he censored the original line and left it with... that.

  50. feh, this comic did nothing for me. i think i'm just so jaded to xkcd at this point that when one comes around that even the xkcd haters like, i can't appreciate it.

    also, doubleblackbird's pointing out about this being derived from a quote makes me even angrier. i think randall just recently discovered bash - see the alt text on the laptop hell comic.


  51. greg:
    I don't think it's new to him.

  52. I think we should establish as a baseline against which to compare humour. I'm really not sure you can beat the Harry Potter excerpts where they replace wand with wang.

    Now, while I find Randall constantly going on about his love life to be at times tiresome I'd like to point out that it *is* possible for some nerds to be able to maintain multiple casual dating arrangements. I'm not going to lay claim to any grand exploits because I prefer to have my heterosexuality unchallenged by Poore, but I'm just saying that it isn't unrealistic. Though constantly talking about it on your webcomic could certainly be considered bad form.

    Also, I am in love with puns and enjoyed the comic.



    What we have in panel three is, as cow_2001 pointed out, the very aesthetically-pleasing box and whisker plot (or as my Greek statistics professor called it, a 'boksin vikser plot'). And I assume that dot over on the far right represents Irrefutable-Math Girl. But panel two suggests that Multigirl-Guy is casually dating her, which makes her part of the data.

    In that case, shouldn't she be represented by an extremely long vikser? That's how they're normally displayed - the boksin contains all the important stuff like the interquartile range, and the viksers show you the really outrageous outliers so you can laugh at them. You can't just draw a dot a long way from the plot, that messes up the whole graph!

    Bear in mind that I haven't done much statistics yet so Randall's drawing could well be right, and what I'm saying might all be Jeffrey Archers. But I also question the notion that being a major outlier makes you 'statistically significant'.


  55. @doubleBlackbird: She's an outlier to the data, in order to be an outlier you are actually required to be part of the data. She's still part of the data, however she's too far from the boundaries of the first and third quadrants to be included within the plot.

    I believe that's how it works, it's been a bit since Stats class.

  56. DoubleBlackbird:

    It is traditional to separate an outlier from the box and whisker plot, and make it just a dot, to highlight the fact that there is an outlier.

  57. Traditioooooonnnn... TRA-DI-TION.

  58. Accursed Statistics professor. All teh plots I drew were wrong. :(

  59. Double Blackbird: Not necessarily. It is not required, just a common practice.