Numbers for Life and Work

Some people love numbers, working with them, playing with them, and thinking about them. Others do not. Many don’t even have a basic understanding of how to use numbers in their work. Here are the basics…

While serving in Iraq, an officer colleague of mine was called upon to estimate the exposure from a radiation source that our soldiers found on a rooftop in Baghdad. He did the calculations and gave them to me to check. This officer was industrious, dedicated, and smart, but he had made a decimal place error and overestimated the exposure by a factor of 1,000. My colleague hadn’t made such calculations for years, and his mistake could have happened to anyone. But had this estimate gone to the commanding general, he would have had to evacuate the area and send many troops back home for medical monitoring.

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Slaves to the Numbers

We are humans, not robots. We have brains and hearts, not computers. Why then do we enslave ourselves to robotic, computer-numerical evaluation of what we do, how our days have gone, and everything else in our lives?

The topic of our study in the young married adult class at church yesterday was “Leaving a Legacy”. For the first time in years, I did not have to teach and so had the rare privilege of just listening. The teacher was describing the importance of being intentional and taking time to build a legacy with your family. “Life” he said, “is more than just taking your kids from one sports event to another every Saturday.” A woman in the class replied “Yes, but Washington is a competitive place, and I was talking to some friends last week about our coming weekend schedules. Theirs were packed, and ours was lighter. Over the course of the conversation I almost felt guilty that we weren’t doing as much. I hope that we can get support in the church to live our lives with our lighter schedule.”

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