We have a winner!

A while back I had a contest in which I asked readers to tell us two things: an interesting fact about themselves, and an interesting experience they had. That was to commemorate the 25,000,000th view of the site, and the response was, well, “hearty”: 394 comments (not all of them were entries).  There were some curious facts and experiences, and I, for one, really enjoyed reading them. It also helped me learn that, say, one viewer had more than the average number of limbs. In fact, nearly all of us do.

I hope everyone else enjoyed reading them too, and I thank all the entrants.  I’d like to say “everyone was a winner,” and they would be if I had that many books to give away!

But there can be only one winner, and it was a tough choice. In the end, a comment by reader Divalent stood out, not so much for the “interesting fact,” but for the “interesting experience” (#2 below). It was so endearing, and written in such a lovely manner, that I had no choice but to award Divalent the prize. And it was about squirrels, too! (The winner was, of course, determined by the laws of physics long before I proposed the contest).

So, ladies and gentlemen, the winning entry:

Screen shot 2013-11-17 at 5.48.59 AM

If you are “Divalent,” please contact me by email with your address. Your prize is a choice of either an autographed copy of WEIT with a cat drawn in it (to your specifications), or a Kitten Hili latte mug (20 oz) autographed by yours truly. This is the same kind of mug from which Professor Ceiling Cat quaffs his quotidian morning latte.

Thanks again to all who entered, and you may want to go back to the thread to read some of the amazing entries.  We have quite the interesting readership!


  1. Diane G.
    Posted November 17, 2013 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Congrats Divalent!

    That really was a day-brightening anecdote.

  2. jesse
    Posted November 17, 2013 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Excellent choice. I agree that the story was presented well. It made me smile. Oh to be so creative! Congrats, D.

  3. gravityfly
    Posted November 17, 2013 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations, Divalent! A very interesting experience and a worthy winner. 🙂

    Nearly all of us have more than the average number of limbs? I don’t get this…

    BTW I too jump out of airplanes. 😉

    • Posted November 17, 2013 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

      Since there are amputees, the average # of limbs is a tiny bit less than 4 arms and legs, and less than 20 fingers and toes.

  4. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted November 17, 2013 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Nearly all of us have more than the average number of limbs? I don’t get this…

    Back to Statistics class, session 1 for you. What do we mean by “average”? It’s is some measure of the central position of a collection of measurements, experiments, or samples of a class of items.
    Most people will readily accept three different such measures as fitting the meaning of “average”: the middle value (if you arrange all the values in increasing or decreasing order ; the most common value in the collection of values ; and the numerical average of “add the values together and divide by the number of values in the list” meaning. Respectively, that’s the “median”, “mode” and “mean”.
    Depressingly large numbers of people hear the word “average” and assume “mean” ; which is not a given.
    The modal value for the human limb count is “four” (though in some countries it may not be) ; the median value is almost certainly going to be “four” ; and the mean value is going to be noticeably less than 4.0, because many people are lacking one or more limbs. Therefore, many people have a more than average number of limbs.

    BTW I too jump out of airplanes.

    I tried it once but the ground crew told me to stop mucking about and just get on the helicopter.
    BASE has a worrying fascination.

    • Diane G.
      Posted November 17, 2013 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      But by your very explanation you seem to agree that there’s an accepted colloquial meaning of “average” that includes all three statistical definitions. 😉

    • gravityfly
      Posted November 17, 2013 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

      Ok I get it now. Feel like an idiot though…

      But man…you brought back memories of my undergrad stats classes from many moons ago!

      “I tried it once but the ground crew told me to stop mucking about and just get on the helicopter.”

      Had second thoughts, eh? Normal thing bro…
      And BASE rules! But I recommend at least 200 skydives before you attempt it.

    • Jonathan Wallace
      Posted November 18, 2013 at 12:52 am | Permalink

      “The modal value for the human limb count is “four” (though in some countries it may not be)”

      I know there are countries where limbs are hacked off as a punishment (another ‘achievement’ to the credit of religious regimes) and other countries where the use of land mines in military actions has resulted in many amputees but I would hope that even in these countries the number of people with a full complement of limbs still exceeds the number of amputees!

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted November 18, 2013 at 7:03 am | Permalink

        I would hope so too. But with one of those countries just up the coast from here … actually, one of those regions, spread across the borders of two countries, IIRC … it’s something that was playing on my mind.
        I don’t think that particualrly shameful episode can be laid at the crowded door of religion though ; I think most of it was just plain terrorism of rebels and state against the populace. And I think that the roles of “rebels” and “state” changed at least once. I’d have to research to refresh my memory, to be honest. I can’t remember if Charles Taylor was acquitted, convicted, or if the trial for war crimes is still on-going.
        [GIYF] Convicted ; 50 years ; to be served in a UK jail, at least initially. Story.

        He had asked the UN-backed special court in The Hague to serve his jail term in Rwanda instead.
        […] He was sentenced in May 2012 for aiding rebels who committed atrocities in Sierra Leone during its civil war.

        Now, I wonder why he wanted to go to Rwanda? Friends in high places? Sorry, but it is Africa, and I do smell the stench of corruption.
        There’s a story rattling in the back of my head … oh yes. Just to rehabilitate the reputation of “Africa” in general (or at least, to put them in better-known company), an entry from The Diary of Julius Caesar, aged 51 and 3/4″ Volume 8, chapter 44 :

        Caesar, being convinced that his lenity was known to all men, and being under no fears of being thought to act severely from a natural cruelty, and perceiving that there would be no end to his troubles if several states should attempt to rebel in like manner and in different places, resolved to deter others by inflicting an exemplary punishment on these. Accordingly he cut off the hands of those who had borne arms against him.

        Hmm, the English is ambiguous. Did he cut off one hand or both of those pesky Terrorists/ Freedom Fighters?

  5. Lianne Byram
    Posted November 17, 2013 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Congratulation Divalent!

  6. articulett
    Posted November 17, 2013 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    I love that story! I hope there was some peach left on the pit for the squirrel.

  7. Posted November 17, 2013 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    I hope we can do this contest again one day. It was very enjoyable reading the stories, and I have a few more to tell.

  8. Diana MacPherson
    Posted November 17, 2013 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    Congrats Divalent! That *was* a good squirrel story!

  9. krzysztof1
    Posted November 17, 2013 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Congrats to divalent! Great story.

  10. Taskin
    Posted November 17, 2013 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Excellent choice, congratulations divalent!

  11. Divalent
    Posted November 17, 2013 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    Congrat to the winner! 🙂

    (Thanks all. I got the book already, so probably will go for the cool cat mug. I’ll send an email now…)

    BTW, this is the second time I was declared a winner of one of your contests: I also “won” the contest to select a word for an accomodationist (“faithiest”). However, I declined to accept that, because it was originally coined by another. He gave up on “faitheist” when someone pointed out that he submitted more entries than were permitted under the rules, and I then “took” it. (But since I didn’t actually coin the word, I didn’t feel right accepting an award for doing so.) In this case, though, I’ll accept the award. (The events as described actually happened.)

    • gravityfly
      Posted November 17, 2013 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

      Second time? Lucky dude!

  12. TonyR
    Posted November 17, 2013 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations to Divalent — Loved the story of the squirrel, the nickel and the peach!

    Well done.

  13. Ken Kukec
    Posted November 17, 2013 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, but Divalent got taken on that deal. Squirrels are known for opening with a low-ball bid; typical gambit among the order Rodentia. A little patience and Divalent could have gotten a dime for his peach pit, no sweat.

    That’s the problem with interspecies’ trading. The naïve human is thinking Art of the Deal like that doofus Trump, while the squirrel is working a reverse-Jack-and-the-Beanstalk ploy.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted November 17, 2013 at 4:07 pm | Permalink
    • gravityfly
      Posted November 17, 2013 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

      Lol 🙂

    • jesse
      Posted November 17, 2013 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

      Shhhh! The scacchic skill of squirrels is supposed to be a secret.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted November 17, 2013 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

        Wait …the squirrels have chess now, too? First it was the Russians, then the IBM computers, and now the squirrels?!

        That’s OK, maybe I can game that into a victim card. Once I heard middle-class (and richer), middle-age (and older), white, Protestant men explain how they were the ones being discriminated against all this time — mainly by not being allowed to make the rest of the nation march to their hymns — I had one of those pellucid moments of clarity: Anyone could claim victimhood, all you needed was a little schtick to give you cover. And now, finally, I’ve got it. Damn brainy squirrels!

        • jesse
          Posted November 17, 2013 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

          Well, squirrels do have their own mail, SquirrelMail.

          And just google-image “squirrel chess” and you will be amazed. But do keep it quiet.

        • jesse
          Posted November 17, 2013 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

          While you are at google images you will see the yoga squirrel and the jedi squirrels.
          Squirrels are much more talented than anyone ever knew. Jerry’s squirrels are _lame_.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted November 17, 2013 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

            Y’all ARE squirrels aren’t you? You know too much secret squirrel stuff! 🙂

            • jesse
              Posted November 17, 2013 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

              If you are in the know, you will also see that they play banjos.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted November 17, 2013 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

              No wonder Divalent got fleeced…er, furred … skinned? (The non-speciesist term would be what? Epidermized?)

              • jesse
                Posted November 18, 2013 at 7:10 am | Permalink

                Yes, they are clever. I never knew, for instance, that they were beside us in the trenches in WWI.

                The Great War:

                And don’t even start looking at the jackalope pictures. You will have nightmares. I think they are smarter than squirrels.

              • jesse
                Posted November 18, 2013 at 7:13 am | Permalink

                Oh, sorry about that. That is my cue to quit. The link didn’t transfer well, did it. Sorry. Well you get the drift.

  14. Posted November 17, 2013 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    Congrats, Divalent.

    Oh, do Ben and I get a teensy consolation prize for kinda sort-of-ish spotting a winner? We were the only ones to comment on his story. 😛

  15. Posted November 17, 2013 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations Divalent!

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