A Mean #socs Post

Linda gave us the word “mean,” another one of those useful words because it has so many meanings. One of them is “cruel,” of course. A good example of being mean would be making a person sit and watch the late comedian Jim Varney, whose stage alias was Ernest P. Worrell and whose catch phrase was “Knowhutimean (Know what I mean), Vern?”

I didn’t realize that he had created that character long before the first time I saw him, which was probably on a commercial that aired during a Braves game on WTBS in 1988 or 1989. Maybe for Goody’s Headache Powders, I’m not sure. That would be a good pairing, because seeing him gave me a headache.

Another way I could be mean would be to try and explain the Mean Value Theorem, but I won’t, mostly because I learned it when I took calculus in 1973-74 and haven’t given it much thought since. Didn’t give it much thought then, either.

I was much better in statistics, where the mean is a measure of the centrality of values in a population. It’s kind of like an arithmetic average, which is calculated by adding up the values of all the values in a set (say drive times to the office) and dividing by the number of values. So, let’s say I’m trying to figure out how much time it takes to get to the office, and that in one week it was 60, 65, 72, 55 and 62 minutes. The average would be (60+65+72+55+62)/5, or 62.8 minutes. I could use this weekly average as an estimate of the mean of all drives to the office, in which case 62.8 is a sample mean. The median is another measure of centrality: I arrange the values in numerical order (55, 60, 62, 65, 72) and pick the one in the middle. In this case, the median is 62, pretty close to the average of 62.8.

There are other kinds of means. One is the geometric mean, where, rather than adding the numbers together and dividing by the count, you multiply the numbers and take the nth root of them, where n is the number of numbers you multiplied together. In our example, it’s (60x65x72x55x62)1/5, or 62.55. The harmonic mean is the number of observations times the inverse of the sum of the inverses. in our example, it’s 5/(1/60 + 1/65 + 1/72 + 1/55 + 1/62), or 62.3.

They all have their uses. In this case, I’m using them to be mean.


Stream of Consciousness Saturday is broght to you each week by Linda Hill and this station. Now a word about Dow Bathroom Cleaner, with “Scrubbing Bubbles.” They work hard so you don’t have to!

The voice of the lead Scrubbing Bubble is provided by the late, great Paul Winchell.

28 thoughts on “A Mean #socs Post

  1. I didn’t take calculus, but I did take statistics, which was anxiety-producing enough. That being said, I agree that you’re being mean by mentioning both of those subjects on a pleasant Saturday morning. You’re not assigning homework, right?

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    1. The best thing about Scrubbing Bubbles was Paul Winchell’s voiceover. Especially the laugh: “HOO-HOO-HOO!”

      I needed a succinct definition of the mean, so I went to The Blogger’s Best Friend (TM) and was reminded of the geometric and harmonic means. So my discussion got a little more complicated. I would have gotten into standard deviations as well, but figured y’all had suffered enough. Now, if there were such a thing as “Ernest Teaches Statistics”…

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  2. The Mean Value Theorem always sounded like double talk to me, stating that if a function of one variable is continuous on a closed interval and differentiable on the interval minus its endpoints there is at least one point where the derivative of the function is equal to the slope of the line joining the endpoints of the curve representing the function on the interval. Simply, any continuous function takes on its average value at least once in an open interval.

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    1. There’s a lot of math in music, believe it or not, and a certain amount in the visual arts. I’m not sure about writing, although poetry has the whole meter and feet thing. They tend to help each other.

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  3. I was thinking about Jim Varney movies just the other day! He had a rare combination of being annoying and yet so silly that I couldn’t help but watch him. And the scrubbing bubbles…”Hoo-hoo-hoool!” Thanks for giving the name of the man who did the voice. I’ve wondered about that!

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    1. Paul Winchell was a popular ventriloquist (his dummies were Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff) and did a lot of voiceover work in cartoons, and still found time to design an artificial heart. A real renaissance man.

      Don’t forget “The Beverly Hillbillies” when you’re remembering Jim Varney movies. He was pretty good as Jed Clampett.

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  4. Oh dear. Jim Varney. I first saw him on local commercials when I was living in DC in 1984! Someone must have thought he was brilliant because years later, I’d see him on commercials nationally.

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    1. He was, as you might expect, quite popular in the South. Varney wasn’t a bad actor: he played Jed Clampett in the Beverly Hillbillies movie (which wasn’t as bad as you might think) and, while no one could do Jed better than Buddy Ebsen, he did all right.

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  5. haha that Jim Varney! He’s so funny and had some pretty crazy movies. He’s my Mr.’s favorite, and I hear that phrase ‘knowhutimean, Vern?’ all the time, because he calls me Vern most days. Why, I don’t know.
    Now, I don’t get how math works at all, but when you put it into numerology, now that’s interesting. Take today… 11-11-2018. … 2018 adds up to 11. so..11-11-11, but what does it ‘mean’ ? haha
    Hope you’re weekend is going good, John.

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    1. Did he call you Vern before the commercials?

      My grandfather was a math professor and could do some pretty amazing calculations in his head. He was especially interested in numbers that were divisible by 11, for some reason…

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