Saturday, July 4, 2009

Comic 605: Why You Shouldn't Marry Randall

Extrapolating

This comic didn't anger me so much as sadden me. It's just "oh hey here is some mistakes you can deliberately make with math." As though people don't know how damn easy it is to lie with statistics. What's he trying to prove? Are we supposed to laugh at the man for being wrong? Are we supposed to laugh at the idea, knowing the man doesn't really believe it? Are we supposed to laugh at how terrible this marriage is going to turn out? Or how she is all dressed up and he isn't?

The old "My Hobby" comics were some of the best comics he did (particularly 37 and 236, if you ask me, which you do). But this one (and that other one) is awful. Randall in essence has two "brands" with his comic, two concepts which have predetermined implications and associations for his readers: Mr. Hat, and "My Hobby." As far as I know, those are the only recurring ideas of this nature in xkcd, concepts that can be places in all sorts of contexts and all sorts of jokes and make a degree of sense (no matter how often he tries to make Mr. Beret a recurring character, he hasn't given him any amount of consistency yet, so we can't count him).

Anyway the point is, like xkcd itself, fans of the comic expect good things when they see "My Hobby" and Mr. Hat (assuming they are still fans, they probably do, that is. If you are like me, you have lost all faith. But Randy doesn't draw for me). They are things he can rely on to make fans a certain comic that they might not otherwise, if the joke had been presented differently. See for example this dude. And I think that's what Randy is taking advantage of, perhaps not consciously: Covering up a crappy comic by putting it in a popular series. Think "New Coke." This is all meant more as observation than criticism.

Continuing with using this rather bland comic as a springboard for more general xkcd discussion, let's talk about math.

Someone e-mailed me with a link to this forum post, demonstrating just how simple the math here is. Especially when the 9th grade author of the post corrects Randall's graph. I'm not meaning to criticize the fact that it's simple (so you can delete your "You complain when it's too hard and when it's too easy, you dumb fuck!" e-mails) but it did get me thinking:

Does it seem like the math in xkcd is getting easier? At the beginning we had Poisson distributions and Fourier transforms. Even after it graduated from Randall's Notebook Drawings, we still got complicated stuff like this equation, Karnaugh maps, and the Bellman-Ford equation. And the Reimann-Zeta function.

What have we had recently? There was 602, but that was more of a "generic math" thing - it could be replaced with anything and work just as well. Fibonacci numbers, statistics 101 -it's just simpler now. Do people agree with this, or am I being crazy? And is it crazy to think that maybe it's because he is selling out and wants to appeal to more and more people, and jokes about Karnaugh maps are not going to do that? MAYBE!

Again, not saying this is bad, or that he should do something else - just saying that it seems like he is selling out his original niche for a more commercially popular one.

Lastly, when looking through archives for old math comics I came across this, and it made me so sad:

remember THIS??

Oh, how we become that which we hate.

58 comments:

  1. It isn't a reach to think that maybe Randall is forgetting at least a bit of his education. It happens to everyone.

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  2. Hell I forget what I took in University 2 terms ago. Randall's been away from the academic and professional scenes for how long now?

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  3. This comic reminded me of one English professor I had in college. The second lecture of the semester, I overslept and missed class. After the third lecture he chewed me out for missing the second lecture because I had, so far, missed 33% of the classes. As if that was going to dictate a future trend or something.

    (Well, I did end up burning out and fucking up that semester, although I still passed all my courses - many with Cs, unfortunately, and then my GPA dropped to 3.48 which was 0.02 below the threshold for maintaining my scholarship and that led me down a path of not-giving-a-shit.)

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  4. Format: OK, but he should drop the "Math" from his blog's description. And people should stop this nonsense that this is somehow a "nerdy" webcomic.

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  5. It still is nerdy. Not as academic, but nevertheless, xkcd retains a hold on the old math/science. "Mainstream" people do not base a joke on Paul Erdos.

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  6. You have to admit though, nerdy is now way more mainstream than it was 20 years ago. At least on the internet where it is overrepresented.

    Somehow, it seems, jokes about the bizarre, quirky world of science are not very amusing when you know -and the lack of clue in every strip confirms it- that the author is no longer in that world, but someone who makes a living drawing a crappy webcomic three days a week and literally sits on his ass and looks at 4chan all day.

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  7. You know, although I'll admit that it's annoying how much Randall overuses the idea, I still think it would be totally sweet to be able to conjure huge graphs out of thin air and point at them with a stick in the course of conversation.

    Obviously I need to invent some sort of micro-portable belt-buckle overhead projector.

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  8. What made me laugh was how the husband invested in it. Drawing a huge graph just for this stupid one time joke.
    But we've already seen people putting effect into stupid graph jokes in xkcd.

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  9. Also, Carl, can you make a list of web comics that you read and are consistently good?

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  10. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, 1:52 anonymous!

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  11. My favorite thing about the "throw off your shackles" comic is that he comes up with such a milquetoast example of 'a final blaze of dadaist glory'. If there is one thing you can say about Randall, it's that he's very representative of Massachusetts.

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  12. Hey Carl, can you make a list of pirates you like? I mean, like, Blackbeard and stuff.

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  13. Redbeard was here
    Blackbeard sucks

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  14. @Zantos
    I don't think we should risk getting this blog in trouble by discussing piracy.

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  15. I don't think the word 'math' should be removed from the comic description as long as the word 'language' is still in there. There are maybe two comics about language in the entire archive, and Randall's grasp of the English language is so poor that it's kind of a travesty to describe XKCD as a comic about language.

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  16. To add to the lameness of this joke, wasn't one of his comics an incredibly preachy thing about honest and dishonest representations of numbers?

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  17. I think the reason the comic has lost it's intelligence is that the fanbase has become a lot younger. I'm an ex-forum member, apparently the only one over 14. Just look at the "Coding help" or "General" sections: Every other thread is "Python", "Python", "beginning programming", "blah", "blah, blah", "I'm better than my friends, because I read some comic AND I UNDERSTAND THE JOKES...and I'm so alone".
    Sadly, Randall has let the forum affect the comic. It's aimed at elitist high-school kids, sadly. That might explain the fixation with sex jokes too.

    I kind of see how this comic could have been funny, in an absurd, kind of way, if he had removed the dialogue and "My hobby" title, and just shown the guy explaining the diagram to the bride, but as usual, he messed that up too.

    By the way, am I the only one that is creeped out over the way the guy bends his head toward the girl when talking? Since he's not dressed up, I'm guessing he's a friend of hers, rather than the groom (which would fit in the every-male-is-Randall theory, since he's alone and sad). That's not how you respect the personal space of your friends. Even if he is marrying her (I don't know, maybe he doesn't want to marry off Megan to someone else), it still gives me bad vibes, like she is trapped between him and the speech bubble, in a two-dimensional world, with nowhere to run, and he is coming to marry her, and make her have hundreds of babies.

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  18. lol. Yeah, the word "math" should be removed from the comic description, because absolutely *none* of the strips from the "old" xkcd count as part of the comic.

    I'm also quite amused at how you people assume the guy is her husband? Not only does the comic suggest that that's false, whoever wrote this post refuted their own belief without realising it: "she is all dressed up and he isn't".

    But seriously, that comic you put up struck with me too. I doubt xkcd is "selling out", but it's changed, and change can suck.

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  19. New theory: Guy is Randall, bride is Megan, groom is someone else. Guy is trying to prove that she shouldn't have married groom, and that it will only last for a day. Guy secretly hoping that he is among the other four dozen husbands.

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  20. I improved it, to prove my point: http://img40.imageshack.us/img40/3385/extrapolating.png

    I had an idea for a site: xkcd minus text.

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  21. My friend, you simply must visit xkcd: could be better!

    Comics I like that are usually good: Qwantz, penny arcade, achewood, chainsawsuit, married to the sea, moe, SMBC, overcompensating. And then I read a bunch of others that are sometimes good. Now - tell me that the problem is just that my sense of humor sucks because I like comic [x]! that is always what this leads to.

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  22. carl your humor sux if you like qwantz, k?

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  23. Best one in weeks? I think so.

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  24. "Randall shows Mr. Line Through Head the finger" is the first thing on the internet to make me actually laugh out loud since http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=1557

    Something about the long, awkward silence. It's just beautiful.

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  25. Could we make a chart of how many bad xkcd's there have been and extrapolate how many more we can expect to be made?

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  26. thomas, it would just reflect the truth

    and depress us

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  27. also captcha = suacc, lol

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  28. I did quite like this one. I laughed "at the idea, knowing that the man didn't really believe it". Well, obviously I didn't actually laugh, but you see my point. It seems like a pretty amusing thing for a person to say on someone's wedding day.

    The maths is pretty screwed up though - even I can see that. That zero should really be at the origin. As it is, the graph implies that, what, the day before yesterday she had MINUS husbands?

    Although I might be a little biased, as I went to a friend's wedding yesterday.

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  29. @Ann Apolis: I call it "qwantz" because it's faster to type than "daily dinosaur comics."

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  30. Mr. Dandy, I like your text-removal of 605 lots.

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  31. I normally like xkcd, but the alt-text on this one creeped me out: "By the third trimester, there will be hundreds of babies inside you." Wtf?

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  32. You can't extrapolate from two numbers. Period. Because you could just as easily say the numbers are going 0,1,4,9,16... or 0,1,0,-1,0... or any other of inifinite options.

    This comic might have been funny if Randall had actually spent enough time thinking about it to come up with three intervals that imply a trend that isn't actually there. But no. He went with a joke that works with literally anything that has a first time. It's lazy.

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  33. I've been inspired to make this:

    http://img40.imageshack.us/img40/8117/xkcdfail.png

    someone send it to Randall!

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  34. Today's comic would have made a much better My Hobby comic. As it stands, there are about three extraneous panels.

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  35. @Ken: Of course you can extrapolate from two numbers. It just has to be linear. Obviously, I can get any quadratic series at all out of it -- but you could just as easily say it's impossible to extrapolate from three points, because what if it's cubic? And so forth.

    Obviously, I'm nit-picking, but it seems to me that the central absurdity is that he's misusing the data set.

    On the other hand, I suppose March-June temperature data would work reasonably well and be a full data set.

    On a lighter note, I once insisted that I could get home using a map of the Museum of Science and Industry because I could extrapolate.

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  36. Cuddlefish PrimeJuly 5, 2009 at 10:05 PM

    So Randall's problem with the guy at the end of 606 is not that running around shouting memes is unfunny and annoying, but rather that Portal is old now, and if the guy wants to be nerd-cool he should be regurgitating phrases from newer games instead?

    Okay, just checking.

    Anyway, I generally buy/play older games for similar reasons as the guy in the comic, so I admit I sort of chuckled at the GOOMH-ness of it. Still not a great comic, but not one of the worst either.

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  37. I think he was again going for a "get out of my head". Because intentionally bad extrapolations is an extremely common activity on campus (along with describing something as "infinitely better" if it's the difference between 0 and X, instead of saying "X better"). I didn't find it funny because I always want to dropkick those people. Except when I do it. But when I do it I'm funny, I hope.

    I agree that the math is getting easier and that it's probably just because he's out of school.

    The new one reminds me of a University roommate who discovered Austin Powers in 2004, and quoted the first couple extensively. So while I hate memes and excessive quoting, I do agree that outdated quoting is a special form of evil.

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  38. Gotta admit, the alt-text was pretty funny in a weird surreal way.

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  39. It is, in fact, a comic about the fact that quoting old memes is not funny. Consider Carl's mind blown at this extraordinary doublethink*.

    *and yes, that is a textbook example of doublethink. Seriously. "Holding two contradictory opinions at the same time". It's in the frickin' book. I've read it. Honest.

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  40. Ann, nobody cares what books you have or haven't read, or what words you know the meaning of.

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  41. Anon 4:46, no one cares about your pent up sexual frustrations reading Ann's posts.

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  42. Wow, really? "You just say that because you want to have sex with her"? Even disregarding what gender Ann actually is, is that really the best thing you could come up with?

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  43. I know I only ever say anything because I want to have sex with Ann Apolis.

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  44. Everyone feels that way, Rob. The first step is to accept that.

    And the second step is to accept that it ain't ever gonna happen.

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  45. this is why we can't have nice things.

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  46. That Garfield comic is stupid because Jim Davis did throw off the shackles and do something unexpected once. And after showing he could, he went right back to regular Garfield.

    Also there's nothing wrong with outdated quoting. Everyone doesn't discover everything at the same time. If you get to act like an idiot after noticing something in 2009, you can't hate the person who acts the same way in 2013, because all you can say is "they're acting just like me, only removed from the socially accepting environment that stopped me from realizing how stupid I, and everyone around me, were being."

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  47. Lol, look what I started.

    What does Ann Apolis' gender have to do with anything, Fred?

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  48. Today's isn't funny at all. Ha ha, he referenced something outdated. k?

    Plus, I didn't run to people screaming a bunch of contextless references after playing portal. I did reference it, but I didn't literally shout random quotes in people faces

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  49. guys can we make "... and I'm so alone" another meme on this blog

    like just type whatever you have to say

    ... and I'm so alone.

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  50. It would be true, though. I could be outside enjoying a social life, instead I am posting on a blog dedicated to practice collective critique/flaming against a comic some dude draws


    I'm so alone

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  51. "I'm So Alone" is unfortunately not the name of any track on my upcoming album. We're upbeat! Jazzy! Cheerful!...

    ...so, so alone...

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  52. Hey. I just wanted to make the point that, what with all this ballyhoo about "You can't trend from two points!" we're ignoring that Faceless Man has (and is probably willfully ignoring) thousands of additional points. If we're going by day, assuming the bride is 20 years old, we have over seven thousand data points at which she wasn't married. So that's interesting?

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  53. I know I'm probably giving him way too much credit, but it felt like he was making fun of himself here.

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