I was probably teaching statistics the second or third time around when I finally stumbled upon a good understanding the idea of "random." I had once thought that randomness meant a complete lack of predictability, that there was actually no pattern underlying outcomes. However, I eventually realized that predictability is exactly what randomness is about. If I flip a coin, I can expect it to come up "heads" half of the time, thus giving me a "random variable" that is actually quite predictable. For example, out of ten flips of a coin, one might expect five of them to come up heads.
Unpredictability, however, seems to be the general state of things as I attempt to be a parent to my daughter. Earlier this week, I realized that I needed a receipt that I luckily found in the glove compartment of my car. Once found, I wanted to call the vendor, but somewhere between the car and the phone, I misplaced it. No problem, I decided, I would look the phone number up in the phone book. I took out my reading glasses and began to look for the number, which I discovered was not listed in that book. I really wanted to avoid paying an extra fee for dialing 411, but when I could not find the number, I gave up and called directory information, which was happy to give me the phone number, for a fee that I am sure will show up on next month’s bill. There, I was done with that, I thought to myself, and, still not knowing where the original receipt went, I put the phone book away. Along the way, I lost my reading glasses, which I have yet to find.
One of the special skills that my daughter brings to the world is an ability to find things that are missing, so when I realized that I could not find my glasses, I sent her out to look for them. She happily accepted the invitation, and headed to our bedroom, with its many corners that are usually off-limits to her . Once there, she opened a few drawers that she was not really supposed to be in, and soon came downstairs with, not my glasses, but a small bag that I had carefully stored some of her baby teeth in after the tooth fairy was done with them. “Mommy, look what I found.” She proclaimed. I made up some story to explain them, and quickly snatched them from her.
Later that evening at dinner, she told the story of me misplacing the receipt and my glasses to my husband. She summed it up by saying "Mommy is a loser." Yes, most days, that seems to be the way things go around here!
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