It’s my 100th Pawprint! Isn’t that exciting!
Actually it means nothing. No more than #97 or #102. I’m very proud to have kept it going this long, but the big deal about the number 100 is just that humans have ten fingers! If you don’t count the dew-claw higher up our legs, we have four toes on each foot, so we look at eight on our forelegs. So should I have gone all celebratory when The Pawprint had its 64th issue?!
But this all leads me to thinking about something important.
I’ve been thinking about the meaning of 100. And the main thing I come to is… geez I’m a dog and don’t even quite understand what a hundred is! I just keep doing what I like and Handsome tells me that’s how many it is, but… that it!
You see, dogs can’t do math, but people can. And mathematics (and its higher forms like Algebra and Calculus) have enabled the human race to all sorts of technological achievements, from movies and television, where you can watch that actor William Shatner pretend like he’s been sent into space, to rocket science, which just last week sent… um… that actor William Shatner into space!
But even so, with all your splendid achievements, I so often see humans not grasp the basics of math, the stuff you’re supposed to learn before you’re thirteen.
(Now for what it’s worth, I, like many smarter dogs, have actually achieved some mathematical calculations. Stepping out of my house and seeing a squirrel, I used to run straight at it – while it would run to a tree and get away from me. I figured out over time that if I run for the tree instead, I have a better chance of catching him, since he’s going to run there by instinct even though I’m headed that direction. Cool, huh? Handsome tells me this is because I innately understand something called the Pythagorean Theorem, but I prefer to argue that we dogs invented the field called Tree-gonometry!)
So let’s start with one of my pet peeves. Ever since we were in a bad car accident some years back, Handsome has insisted on putting me in a harness whenever we drive on a freeway. I hate it – it’s hard for me to move around, it’s uncomfortable, and… okay, yeah, it saved my life in that accident.
But that’s just me not going through a window. What about you guys? Well, safety organizations say that, in crashes, seat belts save lives about 50% of the time. Now I can see you saying “Well that’s not that much. And car crashes that bad are pretty rare. And I hate putting that belt on. So I don’t think I will.”
Wrong! See, that annoying belt doesn’t just save your life. It can keep you from getting injured too. Or getting thrown out of your seat, which could make a crash way worse.
And when that awful crash occurs – when that big truck is bearing down on you, or your driver falls asleep at the wheel, or when your car suddenly spins out across a highway (which is what happened to us!)… I’ll bet you’ll be glad you took a 50% improvement in survival chances!
But one question I hear a lot – what about when seat belts kill? Isn’t it true that someone trapped in a burning car, or whose car has fallen into a lake, might make it out more easily if they didn’t have a belt on?
Well yes. And about a half of one percent of crashes involve fire or water. But your odds of keeping conscious in such an accident are far better if you are wearing a seat belt. And nobody unconscious figures out how to get out of a burning or flooding car!
“But,” I hear one of you yell, “What about air bags? Don’t they keep us safe when they inflate?” Actually, no. Air bags are set at a certain height assuming the passenger will be in a seat belt! If you’re not belted in, that inflation might actually break your neck! (That’s also a good reason to remember to keep your dog in the back seat, always. You might like the feel of the pup being up front with you, but in a crash, their chances are awful up there).
So did you see my math? 50% survival, .5% fire and water? Cool, huh?
Okay, here’s another. In 2016, in the U.S., alcohol-impaired driving figured in 28% of traffic deaths, and 17% of those involving a child. Now that’s more interesting. “So you’re saying that 72% of traffic deaths, and 83% of those involving a child, had only sober drivers?! Well those are sizable majorities! So doesn’t that mean we’re better off drinking and driving, rather than not?!” No, and that’s why I’m saying you need to use better math!
The vast majority of drivers aren’t drunk. About 18% of drivers admit to having driven “buzzed” in the past year, and obviously most of them drive most of the time not in that state. So let’s guess some people lie and some people drink and drive a lot, and so let’s say that at any time 5% of drivers are over the limit (I’m making this part up; I imagine the actual number is far smaller). Then that means an impaired driver is about six times more likely to be in a fatal car accident (5×6 = 30, close to 28) than a sober one.
I’m too goofy all the time to say that a person doesn’t have the right to enjoy a drink that makes them feel as good as me. But math tells you – be careful when you do. I’d hate for you to be arrested for it, but even more for you to hurt someone and feel horrible the rest of your life about it.
Math can’t prevent mistakes, but it sure can reduce them if you use it correctly.
All right, another math question I get asked about often: When is a good age to start dating, or marry? Well, the first one has two answers. A legal one and an emotional one.
The legal one depends on where you live. Find out what the laws are – what can teenagers do and not do? And are there laws about the difference in ages (such as if an 18-year-old dates a 15-year-old)? Getting in trouble for these can be horrible for the rest of your life, even labeling you a child molester just for dating someone who looks older than they are! So be super careful about that one!
But emotionally? I’m a big fan of holding on to childhood and its innocence for a long time. And that when the joys and excitements of romance begin, taking things S L O O O O W ! Why? Because you’re only young once! There are so many delightful “stops along the way,” as the old song says, so enjoy each one. And let yourself mature at your own rate; don’t let someone push you into something before you’re ready. I’m not anti-romance in any way; rather I’m saying to savor it as it comes. You’ll be amazed at how many old married couples, who have had the ability to do anything they felt like for decades, really treasure a walk holding hands. Why not learn what they know?
But marriage? Oh now I get to go mathematical on you! In the U.S. (which mostly doesn’t have arranged marriages), 48% of those who marry before the age of 18 will divorce within ten years. While only half that many divorce if they marry after age 25. Now maybe you say you don’t care about divorce. Well you’ll care when the lawyer bills come. And if you have to split custody of children with someone who disliked you enough to break up with you!
But maybe you say “Oh but that won’t be us; we’re truly in love and know we’ll stay together like those other 52%.” And all I can say to that is that every single one of the 48% who divorced believed they were in it forever too. (And some of that 52% didn’t divorce because one of them died! Ouch!)
Okay, then here’s another one that I think is really important. An adult German shepherd runs about 30 miles per hour, and an adult human runs, on average, between five and seven mph. The fastest man ever measured just over 23 mph. So when considering doing something like climbing into a yard or sneaking into a home with a dog, DO THE MATH! Unless it’s a Maltese, you can’t outrun that pooch, so do the Algebra: How long will it take you to run the distance you need to, and how long will it take the dog to catch you? If the answer to the first isn’t well shorter than the second… it’s a very very bad idea!
And last but by no means least… the area where I’ve seen the most bad math ever is in dealing with this insufferable virus! Every day I hear people say that because someone who wore a mask died, masks don’t work, or because someone who’d been vaccinated got sick, they’re fake medicine.
The statistics are so simple, though. Here’s the deal: if ANYTHING was 100% effective against Covid, we’d know about it and someone would be getting very very rich off of it. But just as with colds and cancer, humans have not found a perfect preventative or cure (Yet!).
In the meantime, here’s what we know. The vaccines out there reduce a person’s chances of picking the virus up from someone else by 50-95% (depending on age, health, and the particular vaccine). And if a person gets it, vaccines reduce their chance of passing it on by about 50% — and reduces their chance of hospitalization by 64%, and dying of it by 70-90% (depending on their age).
Does that mean a vaccine is 100% effective? No of course not, no more than seat belts or driving sober. But it improves your chances, and those of people around you, incredibly.
Now you may have health reasons why you don’t want to take a vaccine. That’s fine. But if you don’t – what else are you doing to stop this thing’s ridiculous spread? Staying distant? Keeping yourself as healthy as possible? Or maybe wearing a mask, which reduces your chance of spreading by 70%!
In other words, my dear friends, here’s the bad news: this whole thing has been preventable! Sure, it began with lots of confusion and mistakes, but if everyone had masked and distanced a year and a half ago, you would have had it almost completely under control, and then the vaccines would have eradicated it at once.
Just think about that.
If people had just done the math… SO MUCH would have been different!
But it’s not too late. You, just you, that 1/7,000,000,000th of people today, can make a difference. As with so many of the gifts that your humanity gives you, math enables you to make great decisions that help everyone, and dumb decisions that make the world worse. At no time in history has the human race been more prepared and able to handle a new disease than in this past year. And while much of what you’ve done has been astounding, you could have done so much better.
Because in the end, all the math ever discovered isn’t as important as the most basic number: One. The one person you love who gets sick. The one person left alone by a loss. And the one person most important to me right now: You.
You see, here’s what is amazing about this situation: What you do for yourself in this regard helps everyone else. And what you do for others helps you.
And that’s more true, and more frightening, and more beautiful, than any math equation ever discovered.
Take it from an expert tree-gonometrist!