I just watched the speech that Clint Eastwood made at the RNC yesterday.
Yes it was embarrassing. Deeply embarrassing. To everyone save the 20,000 people at the Times Forum in Tampa. But if we leave that aside for one moment, let’s analyse the substance of his speech. Don’t worry, I won’t be long. There was only one section that contained anything barely resembling a fact.
There’s 23 million unemployed people in this country. Now that is something to cry for, because that is a disgrace, a national disgrace, and this administration hasn’t done enough to cure that.
Post-war, the US unemployment rate was at its highest (10.8%) in November/December 1982, 22 months into President Reagan’s Republican administration.
Other recent local highs occurred in June 1992 (7.8%, six months from the end of George H. W. Bush’s Republican presidency) and June 2003 (6.3%, two and a half years into his Republican son’s first term).
Obama inherited an unemployment rate of 7.8% in January 2009. This peaked at 10.0% that November, and is now hovering around the 8.3% rate.
So while Clint’s first sentence is accurate, the context thereafter is bullshit.
One other snippet of note:
I never thought it was a good idea for attorneys to be president anyway. I think attorneys are so busy, always taught to argue and weigh everything and weigh both sides.
No further questions, your honour.
And here is the eagerly anticipated analysis of the medals won in London’s 2012 Olympic Games. It comes after a similar analysis following Beijing’s Games in 2008.
The USA topped the table with 46 golds, 29 silvers and 29 bronzes (104), followed by China (38G, 27S, 32B (88)) and Great Britain (29G, 17S, 19B (65)). Russia, South Korea, Germany, France, Italy and Hungary occupied the next spots, with Australia rounding out the top ten (7G, 16S, 12B (35)).
In Beijing, Russia took third place with 23 golds to Great Britain’s 19.
If medal winning was entirely random across the globe, then Great Britain would expect to win 8.6 medals (compared to the 65 it won), the USA 43 (it won 104) and China 185 (it won only 88).
If, as is the case for NBC, a medal is a medal is a medal, then Russia would replace Great Britain in third spot, with 82 medals over Great Britain’s 65, and Germany (44) would hop past South Korea (28) and France (34). Indeed Australia would leap to seventh. So let’s not do that, shall we?
In total, 85 of the 204 participating nations went home with a medal.
If you allow for countries’ populations, then Grenada won by a country mile, with 95 medals per 10m population, followed by Jamaica (44), Trinidad & Tobago (30), New Zealand (29), the Bahamas (28) and Slovenia (19). Great Britain came 23rd (10.4), USA 49th (3.3) and China 74th of the 85 medalling countries with 0.65. (Chinese Taipei, in 69th, beat China with 0.86, as did Hong Kong (62nd with 1.4).) India bring up the rear (of the medal-winning nations), with 0.04 medals per 10m population.
Top spot in 2008 went to the Bahamas with 60 medals per 10m population.
Looking solely at the larger nations (populations over 10m), Australia in 2012 was the most successful nation (15 medals per 10m), followed by Cuba (12.4), the Netherlands (12.0) and Great Britain (10.4).
If Yorkshire were a country, and medals won by teams with one or more people from Yorkshire counted for the county, then it would be eighth in the actual medals table (9G, 1S, 2B), ahead of Italy, Hungary and Australia. It won 30 medals per 10m population, fourth on this ranking, behind Trinidad & Tobago.
In sitting down sports, Great Britain romped home (18G, 9S, 7B), ahead of Germany (8G, 8S, 5B), Australia (5G, 7S, 5B), New Zealand (5G, 2S, 5B) and France (3G, 4S, 1B). We fare less well in sports that require standing up.
In purely men’s events, Great Britain tied both China and the USA on golds (17 apiece), and leapfrogged China into second place, taking 17G, 9S, 13B to China’s 17G, 8S, 11B. In women’s events, Great Britain drop to fourth (9G, 6S, 5B) below Russia (12G, 17S, 15B). In mixed events, we top the table (3G, 2S, 1B) over Germany (2G, 1S, 1B), China (1G, 1S) and Switzerland/Belarus (1G).
And of the countries boasting medals in the double figures, Kazakhstan had the highest gold percentage (54%) followed by Hungary (47%), South Korea (46%), New Zealand (46%) and Great Britain (45%). The USA (44%) and China (43%) came next, but Canada converted a mere 6% of its medals to gold (that’s one out of 18 medals). Since Belarus were stripped of their women’s shot put gold, their percentage drops to 17%.
[Click through for a full-size version.]
A couple of years ago, some idiot proclaimed that October 2010 was the first month in 100 years that contained five Fridays, five Saturdays and five Sundays. Everyone swooned.
A few months later, people swooned similarly at proclamations that January 2011 contained five Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays.
It was all bollocks, of course.
And yesterday, The Illuminati (spoof account) tweeted:
Friday the 13th occurs 3 times this year, each 13 weeks apart from the other. This won’t happen again for 666 years. Happy Friday the 13th.
The numbers made the assertion more believable. But some relatively basic analysis proved it not to be the case. But that didn’t stop 12,900 people retweeting the “fact”, nor 2,132 people adding it as a favourite.
The initial sentence is correct. There were indeed three Friday 13ths this year. And occurring in January, April and July, they were 13 weeks apart from one another.
But its rarity is overstated.
In 2678, 666 years from now, there will be only two Friday 13ths, in September and December. They will indeed be 13 weeks apart, but there are years long before then sharing in that property. 2018 will also have two, 13 weeks apart, in April and July.
If you’re looking for the next year with three, 13 weeks apart, then that will occur in 28 years, in 2040: January, April and July again.
With Twitter, it’s much easier to accept and swoon (and retweet) than to query.
(Thanks to Alan for questioning the original post.)
With immediate effect, all government expenditure and savings should be quoted in GBP per British household. With 23.54 million households in the UK, all financial amounts should simply be divided by this figure for reporting purposes.
- To date, the Bank of England has pumped £13,806 per British household into the economy through its quantitative easing programme.
- The Priority School Building Programme has budget of £84.96 per British household for work to be done over five years.
- Researchers will get £10.62 in funding per British household as part of the government’s high-tech growth strategy.
- An extra £183.52 per British household was collected in tax during the last five years, but an extra £46.73 per household could have been collected were it not for job losses, according to a Public Accounts Committee report.
- Welsh schools are to receive a share of £24.62 in funding per Welsh household to help the least well-off pupils in Wales.
Suddenly, the news becomes more accessible, more intelligible, more relevant and more open to meaningful discourse.
I’ve long wondered whether electric cars are more fuel efficient than petrol cars. Below is my analysis.
The G-Wiz is probably the best-known of our all-electric vehicles. Its maximum range is 48 miles, requiring 9.66kWh of electricity, or 4.96 miles per kWh. This, I’m guessing, is in its most fuel efficient mode.
Coal-based energy production emits 950g of CO2 per kWh. So at maximum efficiency, a G-Wiz powered by coal-produced electricity emits 191g of CO2 for each mile driven.
Now take my Mazda 3, offering roughly 39 miles per gallon of petrol. Under the ‘perfect’ fuel/air mixture, petrol burning produces 2.36kg of CO2 per litre, or 10.73kg per gallon. This equates to 275g of CO2 for each mile driven, 44% less carbon efficient than a coal-sourced electric car.
A petrol car that can achieve 56mpg will have the same carbon production as a G-Wiz, assuming the G-Wiz’s energy is sourced from coal.
Electric cars are not in themselves environmentally friendly. But they give us options for fuel production that petrol cars don’t afford us. Once you have a petrol car, driving it will result in a pretty constant impact on the environment. With electric cars, we have the future choice, policy allowing, of sourcing our energy cleanly, therefore reducing the emissions for which an electric car is responsible.
But don’t assume that driving an electric car makes your journey environmentally friendly by default. Because it doesn’t.
An interesting question was posed by Paul Clarke on Thursday on Twitter: what is the acceptable number of cyclist deaths in London per annum? I believe it was in response to cyclists calling for safety improvements following the death of a cyclist on Bishopsgate that same day.
It brought to mind a similar question I’d posed earlier: what would be an acceptable bonus for the CEO of a UK bank? In both cases, anything positive causes some degree of outcry.
But more importantly, it brought me back to an argument I’ve discussed many a time. What is the acceptable cost of safety?
Some people I speak to believe every accident is preventable and should be prevented. This, to me, is a ludicrous statement. Just as no IT system can guarantee 100% uptime, no mode of transport can guarantee that accidents will never happen.
Safety in any mode of transport can be improved. But with improvement comes cost. For many modes of transport, that cost is passed on to the customer directly.
The Boeing 747 has 0.71 crashes involving one or more deaths for every million flights (across all of its 19m flights). (As an side, the Airbus 320 range is the safest of the big players—those with over 10m flights—with only 0.10 such crashes per million flights.)
That 0.71 can be reduced. Further security checks can be introduced at airports to reduce the incidence of bombs and hijackers on board. A worldwide ban could be introduced on flying through turbulent air. The entirety of each aircraft could be checked thoroughly before each flight, and any parts showing the slightest degradation could prompt their immediate replacement.
In reducing that figure to 0.35, say, the cost of a return ticket from London to New York might increase from £400 to £4,000. A further reduction to 0.18 might increase it further to £40,000. These numbers are made up, but the order of magnitude increases are probably not far off the mark.
Those people calling for the safety improvements might cut back on their transatlantic jaunts when they hear of the associated cost hike. Indeed transatlantic flight would disappear overnight—one way of guaranteeing 100% safety, I guess.
When airlines talk of safety being of the utmost importance, they generally mean this within certain market constraints.
The cost of cycling is different. Instead of cyclists paying directly for their journeys, everyone pays for their facilities through taxation. Assuming 500,000 cyclists (there are 480,000 daily journeys, apparently), and ignoring the cost of the original road construction, the Cycle Superhighways would have cost each cyclist approximately £120. I’m guessing that they would not have been willing to pay for this, nor would they be willing to pay directly to implement further safety improvements.
If it costs more per death saved than it would cost the NHS to save a life, should the money be diverted instead to the NHS? (A reminder of the trolley problem: should you actively sacrifice someone’s life if you know it will save five other people’s lives?)
Sixteen cyclists were killed on London’s roads in 2011. The highest such figure was 33 in 1989, the lowest: eight in 2004. What is an acceptable number? And what is the acceptable cost of achieving that?
As a kid, I never understood why a seemingly arbitrary and unwritten rule stipulated that compound interest would apply daily. That is, if you were asked to calculate compound interest over the course of a year, the interest accrued would become part of the principal sum at the end of each day. I never understood why it shouldn’t apply every hour, minute or second.
Below is the effect of differing frequencies with which the principal sum is topped up, each on an initial principal sum of 10,000 and a compound interest rate of 20%. The figures show the resulting sum after one year of investment.
- Annually (i.e. simple): 12,000
- Quarterly: 12,155.06
- Monthly: 12,193.91
- Weekly: 12,209.36
- Daily: 12,213.36
- Hourly: 12,214.00
- Every minute: 12,214.03
- Every second: 12,214.03.
I guess for the sake of threepence, I needn’t have worried.
On Monday, Neil Mortensen, Research & Planning Director at Thinkbox, tweeted the following:
Record sales for John Lewis last week, biggest week ever. #tvworks
This drew a wry retweet from John Willshire of Smithery.
The same must be true for all last week’s ads then?
It’s true. Claiming success of TV advertising for a record sales week two weeks before Christmas is somewhat glib. Imagine the following fictitious tweet from Standard Fireworks on 6 November.
Record sales for Standard last week. Biggest week of the year so far. #tvworks
While the evidence may indeed be there for TV advertising driving John Lewis’s record sales, the implication was that their high sales were wholly a result of the much-lauded TV ad. I expect that most companies tailoring their offerings to the Christmas market have seen increased, indeed record, sales over the last few weeks.
Stripping out seasonality is important, as is stripping out the effect of other media. Otherwise, statements such as these either artificially elevate the impact of TV advertising; or else are treated with the important pinch of salt that they warrant.
I read it at around 0945. And by 1015 I’d posted the British equivalent. (The chart was built in Excel using an xkcd-esque font that I downloaded for the very job.)
The original post showed the 20 most-played Christmas songs (2000–2009 radio airplay) by decade of popular release. Nine of the entries fell in the 1950s and a further seven fell in the 1940s. Of the remaining four, two were in the ’60s, one in the ’70s and one in the ’30s. The most recent song in the chart, Feliz Navidad, was written in 1970, 41 years ago.
The post linked the surge in music with the postwar baby boom, suggesting that Christmases since that boom have merely tried to recreate the Christmases of that time.
I was certain that the UK equivalent chart would look wildly different, so I set out to show this. And wildly different it is. (Click the chart for a bigger version.)
I was expecting the median decade to be the ’70s, but in fact eight of the songs were released in the ’80s, a further six in the ’70s. The earliest charting number was Bing’s White Christmas from 1942, the most recent being the 1994 offerings from Mariah Carey (second best Christmas tune of all time: fact) and East 17.
The UK’s 20 songs are all far more recent, with a mean release year of 1977. (America’s 20 most-played average to 1951, each song being on average over a quarter of a century older than its UK equivalent.)
There is a strong musical tradition at Christmas in the UK, one that I unreservedly love. The Christmas Number One is a big deal (or at least it was until X Factor made it so much more formulaic), and I get the impression that modern Christmas music is far more accepted and expected in the UK than it is in the US.
A lovely piece of analysis by xkcd of the US market. But, if I may say so, a much more lovable piece of analysis by myself of the UK equivalent. Without xkcd, I wouldn’t have thought to do it. But without the wonderful British Christmas music market, I wouldn’t have been able to paint such a fabulous picture.
My friend Alan today pointed me to this page on data.gov.uk. It gives an estimated pipeline of the big tenders that are expected to take place within this Parliament, including those over £5m in value. (There are actually 12 tenders included valued under that amount.)
Of the 208 initiatives, 203 have a maximal contract value, the average being £240m. This is heavily skewed by DWP’s facilities management contract (a maximal value of a cool £9.542bn) and HMRC’s Aspire contract for ICT provision (a mere £8.5bn). Both of these are being let in 2017. Yikes! (The next largest is the provision by the Home Office of Tetra radio services to police forces across the country,at £3.8bn.) From this albeit top-heavy sample, the top 0.5% of projects (one) make up 20% of the revenue.
The lowest value tender on the list is for DH’s website services: £1.4m. Although you can pick up courier services for the Government Procurement Service itself for £2m.
If you take the three biggest projects out of the mix, then we have the following headlines:
- 61% of the projects fall within ICT, accounting for 65% of the maximal spend. A further 25% fall within facilities management, accounting for 22.6% of the maximal spend
- Energy projects have the highest average maximal spend, at £222m. Property projects have the lowest average, at £47.5m
- The Government Procurement Service has the highest total spend, at £7.2bn, followed by the Ministry of Defence (£4.9bn), the Department for Work & Pensions (£4.1bn) and the Department for Transport (£3.0bn)
- If we look instead at averages, then even stripping out its FM contract as an outlier, the DWP tops the list with an average contract value of £690m across its six entries. This is more than double that of the next highest: the MoD at £326m across its 15 projects