Friday, July 04, 2014

Sepia Saturday #235 :Risky Business



"Einstein loved to smoke. As he walked between his house and his office at Princeton, one could often see him followed by a trail of smoke. Nearly as part of his image as his wild hair and baggy clothes was Einstein clutching his trusty briar pipe. In 1950, Einstein is noted as saying, "I believe that pipe smoking contributes to a somewhat calm and objective judgment in all human affairs," Although he favored pipes, Einstein was not one to turn down a cigar or even a cigarette."

Some say smoking a pipe increases the perception of one's IQ by thirty points. My cousin Brian, pictured above with my favorite Auntie Addie, didn't need the help. Brian, who should have been named Brain was, at one time, the youngest actuarial statistician in Canada. I love this photo of aunt and nephew together in the setting so typical of the fifties, with the TV in a "blonde" cabinet; the flash bulbs in their packages and that lamp! Just to my aunt's right was a stand ashtray made of chrome with an airplane on the top. Remember those?

I found this photo on ebay. This is an electric version and the windows of the plane light up. There's even a pipe resting in the actual ash tray part. Looks like these beauties sell for around $600.00

My cousin, the actuary, went on to work for various insurance companies predicting risk. Actuaries (for those who don't know) are the guys and gals at companies like Lloyds of London who determine that it would be a decent business proposition to insure Keith Richard's middle finger for 1.5 million dollars, or Betty Grable's legs for a million bucks! I wonder if Brian ever calculated the increased risk of dying for pipe smokers. Googling this subject, I found that risk is expressed in all kinds of spurious ways depending on the purpose for calculating the risk. Here's one I particularly liked:
Estimated loss of life expectancy* in days due to :
pipe smoking - 220 days; alcohol - 130 days; or my favorite - being murdered - 90 days. Note to self: avoid being murdered or forget about that three month stay in London on the bucket list. 

If you like statistics and want to have fun with data, check out the website Spurious Correlations.  My friend Nancy Javier sent me this link where you can find fascinating and useful bits of information like the fact that the divorce rate in Maine correlates (.99%) with the per capita consumption of margarine. Watch the short video at the bottom of the site where Tyler Vigen, the creator, makes his point about how to use and interpret data.

My cousin Brain Brian would have loved this site and because he was a smart guy, the chances are pretty good that he'd throw caution to the wind, set his pipe aside in the ashtray and check out the rest of the stories on Sepia Saturday.

*Risk Communication, Risk Statistics, and Risk Comparisons:  A Manual for Plant Managers by Vincent T. Covello,Peter M. Sandman, and Paul Slovic Washington, DC: Chemical Manufacturers Association, 1988 Appendix B - Risk Comparison Tables and Figures.




21 comments:

  1. I think in my case it would be a case of the wife saying "either the lamp goes or I do!"

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    1. You obviously have a wife of refinement and good taste.

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  2. Never saw a lamp like that! And had no idea I could boost my IQ by smoking a pipe.

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    1. If a woman smokes a pipe perception-wise,she gets catapulted into a whole new category which includes daring, brave, avant-garde, artistic OR it can go the other way in the Marjorie Main Ma Kettle direction.

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  3. One of my bosses smoked a pipe & he had a special ashtray with a sort of grill on top that he would bang his pipe on to loosen the ash. Unfortunately he liked to smoke his pipe while dictating letters into a dictating machine. Between having the pipe clenched between his teeth while speaking, & banging it against the grill - again, while speaking - he used to drive his poor secretary, who was trying to transpose his dictation, crazy. Glad all I had to do was answer phones & write up insurance claims.

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    1. Those good old days of dictation....it seems longer ago than it really was. Can you imagine that man jockeying his own keyboard...as he would be doing today.

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  4. OMG that TV and ashtray could have been in our house!

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    1. I think everyone on our street had them too. We all had those flamingo screens doors and a variation on the drapes (with the birds of paradise on them) or if you didn't have those drapes then the same design was on your wall paper.

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  5. I love the photo--both the content and the unusual composition. Only 220 days less of life for smoking a pipe doesn't sound like much. I'm wondering how long Brian lived.

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    1. He died at age 60 or so...don't know the cause of death.

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  6. I remember an ashtray stand my grandfather owned: it had several spots for resting a pipe, and at the very top was a rooster with a pipe in its mouth...it was dreadful, but I'd love to have it now!

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    1. Myself, I love a smoking rooster. Yes, what a conversation piece they would be.

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  7. I can't remember when I last saw someone (male or female) smoking a pipe. Around here chewing tobacco is common after cigarettes, and much less often cigars. But pipes have disappeared. My grandfather was a smoker and for a time my father. When they gave up the habit I was very glad except there was one unforeseen consequence of their quitting - there would be no more lighters, novelty pipes, exotic tobacco, humidors, or airplane ashtray stands to give them as gifts.

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  8. Hate to admit it but I love statistics! I only watched the cricket as a child to calculate the statistics.......but now computers/commentators do it quickly and regularly.

    Spurious Correlations is fun!

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    1. Me too. I liked handicapping horses.

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  9. I’m not a lover of smoking of any kind but I do like that ashtray (I wouldn’t want it in my house though). Smoking generted all sorts of curious accessories. As a child I loved my grandad’s Aladin’s Lamp cigarette lighter. That’s a great photo.

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  10. Super photo of Brian and aunt...and great nostalgia at seeing the interior of the home! I'm going to keep track of my friends from Maine now and see how many of them eat margarine! That's such a great stat!

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  11. Yeah, what's up with airplanes and ashtrays? I remember blonde furniture -- my grandparents had a blonde bedroom suite.

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  12. I guess pipe smoking didn't kill Einstein, or at least it wasn't the obvious cause of his death, but the same certainly can't be said for everyone. My husband's grandfather was rarely seen without a pipe in his mouth, and he paid the ultimate price for it.

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  13. Great photo and lots of history in it too with the furnishings. My husband, when he was a pipe smoker, used to have a holder for it on the dashboard of the car. There aren't many pipe smokers around now but I can still pick the aroma of Dr Pat which was his favourite

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  14. I'd forgotten about those fancy pipe ashtrays. I had also forgotten, until now, the pipe caddy my dad had in the living room. Fortunately the stopped smoking one day in 1959 and never looked back. Threw a carton of cigs away and said, "That's it." I have no idea what became of his pipes.

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