Dis-confirming Data — on Sunday??

There it is again.

When I pull up the statistics for this blog, I find a curious and persistent phenomenon:  The number of views per day is consistently higher on Sundays.  What is that all about?  And not only that, but the majority of the week’s views, over and over again, have been of a posting I did over a year and a half ago (January 2015), “Dis-confirming Data in Real Life”.

Dis-confirming data are present in life when our  experiences do not appear to support current theory or our a priori assumptions.  One example I gave in the 2015 posting was about my mother, who, in 1991, moved out of her long-time home into a nursing home here in Madison; when I offered to bring in some of her pieces of furniture to put in her room she had absolutely no wish to do that.  Her response flew in the face of all the environmental and relocation literature that champions having familiar objects in one’s new space to make it seem more like home.

At the time of the January 2015 posting, I argued that dis-confirming data are not to be feared or avoided but rather they are to be “celebrated.”  Instead of merely casting doubt on the original themes or theories, the evidence-to-the-contrary offers us deeper and richer understandings than would otherwise be possible.  We need these dis-confirming data.  For me, my mother’s response led to expanded ways of thinking about relocation, that bringing pieces of one’s prior home to a new location might  feel like a violation of that previous home, that to bring familiar items into the new home could feel un-comforting rather than comforting.

So my questions are:  Why does this bump in the statistics for blog views persistently occur on Sundays?  And, what is the meaning of the recurring preponderance of views of the posting on dis-confirming data?  Anyone?

And now I can’t resist sharing one more example of dis-confirming data.  This one comes from my three-year experience in a program of restorative justice at a maximum security prison in Wisconsin.

I was leading a discussion with about 24 men, inmates in the prison, sitting in a circle, focusing on their everyday routines “inside the walls.”  The discussion included asking the men to share ways that they had been able to make their days inside the prison more their own, more meaningful to them as individuals.  For part of the discussion, I asked them to describe for me what their cells were like.  What would I see if I visited them in their cells?

Theoretically, I was looking for them to describe ways that they had been able to incorporate  personal elements in their cells — to make their cells feel more home-like and more “theirs.”   And, in fact, that is primarily what they did describe:  a box that was used as a small table, a rug on the floor, a dustpan made out of cardboard, sage and other Native American symbols on the wall.  But then . . . at one point, one of the men described a very different way of making the cell “his own.”

This man told the group that he deliberately had never unpacked the boxes that he brought his things in when first coming to the prison.  He said that he wanted to be ready to leave prison on a minute’s notice, if ever he should get the call. I came to understand this reluctance to unpack or to express himself in some personal way in the cell’s decor as his way of “owning” that cell. The cell was his holding spot. The cell was not a space that he wanted to make personal or homey. Perhaps his “readiness to leave on a moment’s notice” helped make his stay in the maximum security prison bearable. Perhaps that “readiness” gave him a modicum of hope for a future.

So, back to the two questions above:  What is it about Sunday that leads to this consistently high number of views on the blog?  And what is it about the dis-confirming data posting — from well over a year ago — that leads to it consistently being the most widely viewed?  Anyone?



Technology Run Amok

It’s Friday morning of last week.  Ed comes into the kitchen and tells me that he is having trouble getting into his e-mail.

Instantly my heart sinks.  Yup, sure enough, I couldn’t get into my e-mail either.

First line of attack:  Call DoIT, our campus technology trouble-shooting line.  After a series of questions from a no-nonsense computer science student, I am told that the problem is not with the e-mail account.  The problem is with the “network.”  We are “off-line.”  We have no internet signal.  For us, that means we need to call AT&T.

Ed makes the call later that day, and spends the next hour or more on the telephone with the AT&T customer care person. Try this, try that.  Look behind the modem, look behind the computer tower, unplug the blue cord, plug the blue cord back in, turn everything off, turn everything back on.  Finally, exhaustion sets in.  Ed gives up.  “I don’t think I can do any more. Please, please send someone out here to help.”  Okay, tomorrow morning.

Sometime after hanging up the telephone, we gradually discover that it’s not just the computers that are off-line.  Since we have our technology “bundled,” everything is out-of-whack — the TV, my iPad, and my iPhone.  We are full of angst in our limbo of time before the AT&T technician comes the next day.  How is it that we have become so accustomed to this daily life with our various devices that to be without them leaves us feeling way out of kilter and “at loose ends?”

After a restless night (really!), the next morning comes and with it the visit from the AT&T technician to our house.  He asks some pointed questions, and quite quickly hones in on the problem.  “See that little red button on the back of the modem, down near the bottom?  Hold that button in for about 15 seconds, the modem will reset, and you will be back in business.”  And holy cow!  It actually worked!  We are amazed.  We are ecstatic.

thumbnail_FullSizeRenderAnd the story doesn’t end there.

On the next day, Sunday, I get a call from my good friend and piano partner Melinda.  She’s having trouble with her computer, her TV, and her iPhone and she is aware that I have been having problems of a similar nature in the last day or two.  Do I have the help number she can call to get assistance from AT&T?  Well . . . I can do better than that.  “See that little red button on the back of the modem. . . ”   Two minutes later she calls me back;  “It worked!.”  We are ecstatic and amazed all over again. Melinda, too, is back in business!

Daily life is back to normal.

***Photo courtesy of Melinda


It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood . . .

When our children were very young, they spent part of almost every weekday watching “Mr. Rogers” on public television.  Fred Rogers was a soft spoken, quiet man who offered a children’s program full of gentleness and everyday-ness, qualities that contrasted starkly with the rapid-fire stimulation and frenetic pace of “Sesame Street.”  “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood” was the first line of the song he sang at the beginning of every program, and the song ended with the words, “Won’t you be my neighbor?”  As I remember, while he sang this song, Mr. Rogers first took off his “outside” shoes and put on his sneakers, and then took off his jacket and put on his cardigan sweater.  Always the same song, always the same routine.  I think this was his way of pretending with the children who were watching that he had just arrived in the “neighborhood” and that he was getting himself ready to spend the next hour with them.  .


A neighborhood is one of the many spaces in which we spend our lives every day.  In our neighborhood, In the past 2 or 3 years, four of the homes close to us on our street have changed ownership — the most recent just last month in August.

We moved into our house in this neighborhood 26 years ago.  At that time, the people right next door to the north of us had already been long-time residents. It is their house that just changed ownership in August.  During our many years as next-door neighbors, we developed regular and predictable ways of interacting and sharing our worlds.  Garden talk, weather talk, grandchildren talk, house maintenance talk, health talk, travel talk — friendly, amiable almost-daily exchanges.

So what happens when somebody new moves into the house next door?  Well, our newest neighbors are a family with two young boys, so hearing the sound of children’s voices coming from that yard during the day and early evening is a new phenomenon.  The two cars in the driveway are different — one white and one dark green. Whereas the previous owners mostly used the large family room at the back of the house for their everyday occupations, we now see lights on in the front rooms and the dining room.  With the previous neighbors, especially in recent years, we always informed each other if we were going to be away for a few days, or even for overnight; but, for now, with the new family, it’s still a guessing game (“I think they’re gone for the weekend”).

It’s hard to say goodbye to the longtime friendship and familiar routines of the former next-door neighbors.  At the same time, however, all the changes that come with having new neighbors are in their own way refreshing.  It’s fun to look ahead to the months of getting to know the new family, watching their children grow, and sharing the house talk and garden talk and family talk.

Later this month we will be gone for a few days up to a cottage on a lake in northern Wisconsin.  Before we go, I will make sure our new neighbors know where we will be and how many days we will be gone.  Maybe that will jump-start a routine for us to keep an eye on each other’s homes when one of us is away. Or maybe not. Together, we will gradually find our own way to be next-door neighbors to each other — a way that is comfortable for all of us.

And we will continue to enjoy “a beautiful day in the neighborhood.”