Wiser’s Wramblings-Accurate and Precise…Not Perfect

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By Chuck Wiser, I write the words to share what my eyes see and my heart feels

I’ve never been a big fan of the Metric System and now have even one more reason to expound on its drawback. I hear you though with your rumblings of it being a “Universal Standard,” and concede some, or most, of your points of validity and justification. I just don’t happen to care for it. I guess the purists have a hard time recognizing what a fraction is and so are trying to do away with it.

Before getting all scientific on you let me explain the trigger for this topic. I recently purchased a package of printer photo paper. My printer uses a standard 8-1/2” X 11” sheet of paper. The package is labeled as 8.5” X 11” and I will discuss that size designation later. When attempting to insert a sheet of photo paper in the printer paper drawer, it would not go into the slot. It appeared to be a little too wide. By exerting a little force, I was able to get it pushed in. I put my original on the glass platen, closed the lid, and pressed Copy. The motors whirred, gears clashed a little and an error message advised that there was a paper jam. Curious, I took the paper out and measured it. Its width measure was 8.6” (almost 1/8” too wide). Aha I told myself. The old mischievous Metric Monster has struck again. 218 Millimeters is just about what the paper measured. I took the package back to Walmart Wednesday and got my money back. I wasn’t about to trim each sheet as I had to do with the first one just to be able to make a copy.

A current concession to those refusing (or unable) to use fractions, is the “Decimal” system, wherein all units of measure are divided into units of multiples of 10’s. A fraction of 1/10 would be written as .1 (or .10; .100; or .1000, as precision increases, but more on that later). The fractional unit of an inch would be divided into 10 equal parts. I started to expand upon the mathematical terms of a fraction to explain what they meant but when I started to describe the “10” in that fraction as the Denominator, my “flip” sense of humor kicked in and I figured I better explain that “denominator” was not to be confused with the person that designates a candidate, as in “de nominator”. After that I thought the rest would all go downhill from there so instead I will branch off into a carryover or offshoot of the decimal equivalent .1, .10 etc. and clarify use of the number of zeroes used before or after the decimal point placement.

A term used in advertising that has always been like hearing fingernails on a chalk board (sorry under 60 folks) to me, is “perfect,” as often used to describe the manufacture of consumer goods. You could not afford anything produced to the “perfect size”. Two terms related to, and which approximate “perfect,” are precision and accuracy. “Precision” is the degree of closeness to perfect something gets. Accuracy is the ability to achieve that precision. The example numbers used in the decimals shown above would indicate the implied precision “.1” would imply less precision than “.1000”. If the denominator (lower number in the decimal fraction) increases from 10 to 100 to 1000 then the number goes from .1 to .01 to .001, each 10 times smaller than the previous.

I will use two examples to illustrate precision versus accuracy. Two targets are used in rifle aiming and shooting practice. One has very large concentric circles decreasing in size as they reach the “bullseye” center. The other has very small concentric circles. As targets they indicate precision. Accuracy is the ability to achieve that precision. You don’t have to be very accurate to get near the bullseye on the larger circles. The closer you get to the bullseye on the smaller target rings is “increasing your accuracy at an even higher precision”. There is another term that comes into play when discussing these terms in the manufacturing or production of an item and that is repeatability. Repeatability, is the ability to “repeat” that precision or accuracy. In the target example that would mean that clusters of multiple shots would congregate in the same area relative to the center of the target repeatedly. Gun shooters and “range rats” are nodding their heads over that explanation. In manufacturing terms, the more precision, the part requires, the more accuracy the tooling requires. If you are using a hand saw your accuracy is going to be around 1/32” if good, maybe 1/16” to 1/8” for us hackers. If you are manufacturing a part and the drawing shows a dimension like 12.5000 then you better fire up the computer controlled machine because to achieve that precision (implied by how many numbers or 0’s after or before the decimal point) then you need to be an experienced “tool and die” person or have a computer running the machine.

Ok, I’ll put my chalk down, take my fingernails off the board and branch out from my “weakly” wramblings to my weekly Wrambling’s. I had to throw that first topic in there for the nerds and to irritate math haters.

Have you ever wondered why the words orchid and orchard don’t both have the “ork” sound? The ”R” plays a role but then why wouldn’t orchid be spelled orkid?

Between the floppy flagman and the drippy driver, I lost half a bag of popcorn whilst traveling between Cuba and Friendship Wednesday while passing through a construction zone. Having purchased my, almost always, bag of popcorn from the Subway in Walmart, I had the bag open on the seat beside me while driving. I acknowledge that it raises the borderline question I’ve discussed in previous articles, “is it legal or not, to snack on food or drink legal beverages while driving?” question. With the bag on the seat beside me I did not have to take my eyes off the road to reach over and take some from time to time. Anyway, the flagman was motioning us to advance toward him and continue, albeit in a less than clear “flagsmanship” way. The driver ahead of me was a little hesitant and rightly so, but as soon as we were within feet of the flag person, it was clear that we were the only ones in traffic, and clearly had been signaled through. As the car ahead of me got right up to the flagger they slammed on their brakes. I jumped on mine as well so as not to hit their car. Popcorn went flying. I pulled over just past the old Joe Coles barn, stopped, got out, and picked up what was on the floor, on top of the pile, putting it back into the bag. When I resume eating it, I’ll have to be a little careful to avoid the gritty things that look like pepper. Pepper is not a common seasoning on popcorn.

An example of my sick sense of humor occurred a couple of weeks ago. I had a routine office visit with my afore mentioned Primary Care Physician. When I walked into the house upon returning, my wife asked how it went. I looked at her solemnly and said, “the Dr. thinks I have 6 more months to live.” She wasn’t startled but gave me the “What the hell are you talking about?” look, and asked “what?” I replied that “I’m scheduled for another appointment in 6 months, so I guess he figured I was going to hang in there for another 6 months.” She just shook her head and walked away.

Is it just me, or have Facebook “Garbage Sale” sites gotten more brazen and pushy? I am signed up in a couple of those “sale sites” and every day or so, a couple of times a day, all of a sudden, a whole string of sale item posts will appear in succession, one right after another. Some, but not all, are all from the same seller. I realize if you leave the Facebook comments section to check out  offerings in the sales site group, then you have to exit that groups string to get back into the standard comments section, but this occurs even if you don’t depart to check out an item. It’s almost as if they have done a “Batch dump” posting a whole string of their “ads”.

A peripheral Covid related happenstance popped up the other day and it left me with bittersweet feelings. A few weeks ago, I was approached by a former Friendship friend, asking if I could get a group of singers from one of the singing groups I am associated with, to sing a few songs to her mother, soon to turn 98. The mother was a former, decades long, local music teacher, and who, is a resident in a local nursing care facility. I reached out to a couple of those groups and finally was able to get a quartet together from the Maple City Chorus. I identified a handful of songs with which I had prior experience singing the baritone part. We met for a practice to fine tune that list, and, upon the other singers’ request, to add a new one for me, at least singing that part. Although I had previously sung that song on other parts, I would have to learn the new part. I hadn’t sung any of them recently so would have to brush up on all of them. I spent hours figuring out how to, and finally making, a “learning track” music CD. I practiced at home nearly every day, and any time I was traveling in my car, for about two weeks.  When finalizing arrangements with the Activities Director at the facility where we were to perform, I was told that masks had to be worn “at all times” when in their facility, even when singing. When I passed that information on to the group, our “Lead” singer pulled out citing his refusal to sing with a mask on. I understand his feelings, as it is difficult to sing while wearing the mask. The de facto leader of the group advised me to cancel the performance. I was broken hearted, disappointed, and frustrated, not only facing the inability to share with this great lady on her Birthday, but also too, a little, given the amount of time and effort I had put into organizing this and learning or re-learning the music. Later that night an idea popped into my head, and I could see a rainbow path ahead.

I called Norma Bartlett, the Director of the Genesee Valley Chorus, of which I am once again a member, and asked if by any chance we could put together an ensemble of sorts from that organization, and to perform for the “Birthday Lady.” She advised that she would consult our accompanist regarding her interest and availability, and then would speak with the full group when we meet on following night. Bottom line is that, despite that weekend being Columbus Day holiday weekend, a dozen, or so, singers were available and more than willing to participate. The show is now “back on the road.” My heart is filled with gratitude for their willingness to take the time, away from their own families and activities, on a holiday weekend and make the trek to Olean to share their talents and music, with another fellow musician and friend. We are blessed with talent and genuinely good-hearted people. Shout out to the members of the Genesee Valley Chorus. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

And, while I am at it, I might as well throw in a pitch to invite anyone who loves music, and sings it, and would like to be a part of a group such as this, to join us. We practice Tuesday nights at the Grace United Church in Wellsville NY, and we are open to new membership. For those of you who have been a part of this group in the past, this is an example and a reminder of how it was, and still is. We would love to have you back.

You can call Norma Bartlett at 585-593-4962, or contact me via wellsvillesun.org or at the Wellsville Sun Facebook page, for further information.

Song of the Valley

There is a song that lifts up from the valley,

With sounds of joy and gladness from our heart.

The Lord has blessed this valley with its richness,

And melodies from our lips depart.

Drift along Genesee, keep trusting in me.

I will sing your song through the land.

With a melody sent from up above,

Bringing joy to the hearts of man.

The songs we sing for you are like the river,

That flows so softly neath the summer moon.

The Genesee has touched the hearts of many.

The rolling river plays a happy tune.

Drift along Genesee with your melody,

So sweet the birds join in song.

And the wind plays the tune of love renewed,

In the valley where music belongs.

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