(slightly edited for clarity)

Q: What is this all about anyway?
A: Back in Year 1, when Grace had appeared in the paper five times, she began to keep a spreadsheet to compare her performance with the other Early Losers. Remember Oslo, Tom Gearty, Bob Zane, and Dee Dee? No, we didn't think so. She soon stumbled across these and other Losers and began distributing that turkey to them weekly, by snail mail, for crying out loud. Al Gore invented the Internet just about that time, and upon the establishment of Gopherdrool, the spiritual ancestor of this site, the stats began to appear there. Now, of course, it's taken over her very being.

Q: Yes, but what does it all mean?
A: Not too much, since you've asked. Most of us are word people and don't really get math. But we also have a large nerd population, and they often do. If you don't care for it, stop reading now and look this up.

Q: OK, so it's to make invidious comparisons among Losers. But isn't a Win more boastworthy than some stinking Honorable Mention?
A: This is not a weighted system. You get one point for each submission the Empress prints. We considered weighting once a long time ago, but that way lies madness, because there is no way to come to a consensus about relative worth, and we don't want to make those decisions ourselves.

Q: So every time my name appears, I get a point?
A: Not every time. You get nothing for "collateral ink," which is when your name appears in someone else's paranoid fantasy. But you do get credit for revised contest titles, donations of prizes, gratuitous abuse by the Empress, and a few other categories, as long as it's in print.

Q: You're kidding, right? You read the fishwrap instead of on a cracked 2"x2" glass screen? What about when the online version is different?
A: A couple of years ago we abandoned the fishwrap as the authoritative source for contest results, so don't worry about it.

Q: The Empress took my great palindromatic haiku about Madonna and Senator Mikulski and attributed it to Chris Doyle. What happens now?
A: What happens is that Chris gets a point, and you don't. Look, we're sure you're a perfectly reasonable person and not trying to grift us, but there's no way we can keep track of all that. If the Empress prints a retraction, that's fine, that gives us a paper trail. But we should warn you that begging the Empress to correct herself can just make it worse.

Q: What could be worse than Chris getting my point? Or any point? Or "the point"?
A: What the Empress might do is print a retraction that doesn't mention you by name, but does mention Chris. That's another point for Chris (under the category of "Abuse" or "Honorable Mention", depending), and more squat for you. Now you're two down for your trouble.

Q: Crap.

Q: What's the "Average"?
A: That's just the number of points divided by the number of Weeks since your first appearance in the contest Year. Your career average is your number of points since your Debut, in whatever Year it was.

Q: How exactly are you keeping track of all this?
A: Believe it or don't, all 21 Years of the contest are maintained in an Access database, which provides the front end for collecting the weekly data. Then we feed a view of it to the Stats Engine, which build all the displays by a process that would embarrass Rube Goldberg. We should probably get at least the 20th century and start using MySQL and PHP, but Norbert Wiener we aren't, although we do kind of look like him. Maybe we'll look into the 20th century after our nap.

Q: How can I examine all my career stats?
A. Grace is now hard at work putting that together for an expanded stats section, and you will be able to see every bit of your ink, with links to the columns archive. In the meantime, any Loser may request an ad-hoc query of the database.

Got more questions? E-mail Grace Fuller