2017 week 37

September 17th, 2017

This week:

  • Barney leaves Blue Peter.
  • From 1982: the death of Leonid Brezhnev, the debut of A Flock of Seagulls.
  • Sam Smith and The National have the big singles and albums.
  • A judicial coup in Catalonia.
  • Cold and showery, more to come.

When 4-0 reverses to 1-4, according to the NCAA

September 15th, 2017

There's been a lot of snark about how Southern California does not recognise its 2006 title game loss to Texas. "We don't do this in football," sniggers The Comeback.

Tell that to the NCAA, which requires history to be entirely re-written.

(More: We actually read the judgement and laws, in a way other "journalists" don't)

The net result is quite simple, and utterly confusing. There's no doubt that SCALF beat TEXAS four times in the past, and that TEXAS won on the field in 2006. But SCALF is bound to ignore that loss, they're required to pretend the game never happened. Their media guide correctly lists them as 4-0 in games they're allowed to count.

But TEXAS is not bound by any such injunction. It will count all five games against SCALF, including the 2006 win. Texas's media guide – for the same game, against the same opponent – says they're 1-4, the precise reverse of 4-0.

The fault here is with the NCAA, and its absurd desire to pretend that history can be re-written to fit later fashion. The NCAA has told SCALF to vacate its wins and its postseason competition. SCALF is following these orders exactly and precisely, to the letter.

The absurdity stems from the NCAA.

Song of the summer 2017

September 12th, 2017

Time to push the buttons and work out Northern Europe's Hit Song of Summer 2017.

(More: Positions 20-6 and a note on our methodology.)

05 attention  -  charlie puth
04 there's nothing holdin' me...  -  shawn mendes
03 2u f/justin bieber  -  david guetta

Charlie Puth did one better than Calvin Harris, pushing out his single at the end of April. It's remained in or around the top ten all summer, never quite hitting the A-list, but adding up lots of points each week. Shawn Mendes spent most of the summer at the weekly number 4, first below then above Guetta and Bieber. Yeah, three Justin Bieber songs in the top fourteen.

02 mama f/william singe  -  jonas blue

Remarkably close for places 4, 3, 2 – less than 3% covers the three tunes. For our money, this was the inescapable song of the summer. Bright and bubbly, but completely vapid.

01 despacito  -  luis fonsi / daddy yankee

But this was the best-charted song of the year, the Latin-tinged love song with something for everyone. Didn't do much for us, but it won by about 14% over the next three.

If you must combine the two Despacitae, then it wins by a mile, and Miley Cyrus's Malibu ranks at 21. That's another of our faves, and it might just be the summer song to come out of 2017.

2017 week 36

September 10th, 2017

This week

  • The limit of The Reunion (R4): Poland in the 1980s is too big for one show.
  • From 1982: surprise news for the Spanish Inquisition…
  • …Channel 4 launches with a repeat…
  • …and a full afternoon's continuity from Children's BBC1.
  • Taylor Swift the best-selling single, The Script have the number one album.
  • Birmingham's bin problem continues.
  • Sunny for the midweek, wet for the weekend, and no improvement before midweek.

Jerry Pournelle

September 9th, 2017

The death occurred yesterday of Jerry Pournelle.

The sci-fi author and journalist entered our life in 2000, when we stumbled across his daybook. This could be the answer to our writer's block, a less structured, more organic way to document things. Seventeen years later, we're still following the basic structure. Pournelle had a voice, and we thank him for helping find ours.

He leaves many acolytes, a special tip of the hat to Dave Farquhar. Jerry Pournelle also leaves a method of political thinking (belief in state control, orthogonal to belief in rational solutions) and an Iron Law of Bureaucracy.

Full article

When Edinburgh drops it

September 2nd, 2017

Our starter is this little conversation.

shinydh: I am genuinely interested in what happens when Philip dies, assuming he does so before Lizzie. We know Lizzie coverage will be smothering but Philip? His death would be a good litmus test for the reaction of British society and media in my opinion.

The_Arn: Probably similar to the Queen Mother I'd say.

shinydh: ...which would have been a heck of a lot more smothering a year earlier. If memory serves BBC explicitly dialled down those plans post-9/11.

Our contemporaneous notes recall that BBC1 gave over about three-and-a-half hours of breaking news and tributes. Opinion in BBC News sees this as an error. Roger Mosey, the head of news in 2002, said a better response would have been to put up a short (5 minute) obituary, repeat the news, give any fast-breaking reaction, and then go to a mid-length (15 minute) obituary. That basically buys the newsroom half an hour to line up guests and look serene.

The main change from 2002 is that all viewers have choice. If people want to watch BBC Dead Duke 24, it will be available. If they want to ignore it, many commercial channels will line up. Semi-major channels like ITV2 and E4 could well run without much change, except perhaps during the day of the funeral.

(More: Reflections on Liz Bowes-Lyon and Margaret Thatcher)

2017 week 34

August 27th, 2017

This week…

  • the BBC won't openly admit that it can help to bring about equality, but we'll take small successes where we can
  • From TOTP 1982: The lead singer looks like John Craven wearing a Dennis the Menace jumper, the backing girls are in schoolboys' uniform, and there's a blue parrot on drums. Well, that's fulfilled the surreal quota for the night.
  • Pink and Steven Wilson do the number one dance.
  • News! Five Flags Over Texas, and chart rigging hits the Young Adult book list.
  • Settled and sunny; it'll change, but not till after the bank holiday?!

How good was Yougov's election model?

August 25th, 2017

Duncan Stott asked if anyone has done a proper bit of research into Yougov's projection. "No" is the answer, even after this effort.

As we would expect, strong confidence in the two biggest parties, slightly weaker for the LD. Something of a hefty miss for the SNP and for UKIP.

The Yougov model seemed to cap the LD vote at about 35% in any constituency. This puts an artificial ceiling on their performance, and costs a number of seats.

Overall, Yougov met or exceeded a hypothesis that "2015 predicts 2017 exactly".

Error watch

Yougov called the wrong winner in only 48 seats. What caused the errors? Primarily, not being held by Con or Lab; Yougov was wrong in 21/67 such cases.

Three seats went from "Con likely" to "Lab gain". Colne Valley, Warwick and Leamington, Portsmouth South. All were marked by a great increase in the Labour vote – from the LD in Portsmouth, from not voting in the other seats.

Mansfield went in the opposite direction, from "Lab likely" to "Con gain".


From these initial investigations, we reckon Yougov worked well within the Butler model. They did well where the ConLab dominated discussion and votes. In a ConLab election, this was enough to look roughly right.

We're not convinced that they fully appreciated the swing from "No vote" to Labour. It is possible that this was corrected in later releases – we are working from the 2 June release, a week before the final score.

Yougov's performance in other areas was patchy, and we have no evidence on whether their model will work with three or more major parties.

Further research is needed.

2017 week 33

August 20th, 2017

This week:

  • Barney Harwood leaves Blue Peter.
  • From 1982: Tears For Fears debut on Top of the Pops, and it's the week to raise the Mary Rose.
  • A new Pink song is the top track, a seventeen-year-old Elvis Presley compilation tops the albums chart.
  • … and we look at women on top of the singles chart.
  • Why Sarah Champion was right, and why she had to go.
  • More rain this week, and next week, though it might be warm and wet for a bit, so do wrap up.

Not Dogs

August 15th, 2017

A fast food restaurant in Birmingham Bull Ring.

Hot dogs, but not as you know them. Instead of a piece of dead pig in the middle, they use a special Quorn sausage. Eight inches of non-meaty sausage, wrapped in a plain bun.

The good news: these sausages are a special order. Not the normal bland Quorn sausage, these have some spice and taste. Good news for vegans, as the range is entirely free of animal produce (assuming you don't put cheese on top…).

We got the version with caramelised onion, which proved an error. Fries were generous but a little soggy. The meal is just over £8. We have the glow from supporting a local business on ethical lines.

2017 week 32

August 13th, 2017

This week:

  • How we watched the athletics from Pickett's Lock New Ham.
  • From 1982: Culture Club and Bauhaus make classic Top of the Pops performances; shame BBC4 viewers were denied them.
  • Also from 1982: John Nott leaves the Conservative party conference, Saturday Superstore opens its doors, and Breakfast With Brisbane.
  • Despacito still the top single, Glen Campbell tops the album charts in the week of his death.
  • Red China sent both bickering boys to their rooms to think about what they've done.
  • Cool, with rain early in the week.

Ali CRONIN – Skins The Novel

August 12th, 2017

Postcards from the summer break between series 3 and 4.

Cronin has the characterisations down pat, but barely manages to recreate their voices.

2017 week 31

August 6th, 2017

This week…

  • Reflecting on the 1982 NCAA-ball coverage.
  • The worst dance ever from Top of the Pops 82 with all the DJs dancing. Gambo can move, the rest look like dads.
  • Does anyone remember the 1982 Puzzle Trail prize? "Seven pieces, all different, yet all the same."
  • Despacito still the number one single, Arcade Fire have the number one album.
  • Wet and a bit nippy; perhaps getting warmer next week.

2017 week 30

July 30th, 2017

This week…

  • Why did 6 Music ignore Chester Bennington?
  • We look at not!Xfm's beer (and look is the best thing to do with this vile swill).
  • From September 1982, Culture Club arrive and there's a massacre in Beiruit.
  • Despacito clings on as the biggest single, Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott have the top album.
  • Has Justin Bieber gone off to found his own church?
  • An unsettled week with rain.

2017 week 29

July 23rd, 2017

This week…

  • Mid-September 1982. Mari Wilson's on TOTP, the international telephone exchange in Moscow failed, a deep dive into Radio 3 schedules then and now, and try not to feel like The Late Grace Kelly.
  • The Vamps have the number one single, a deep dive into Linkin Park's flash sale. And Despacito is still the singles number one. After all is said and done, sales #1 and streaming #1 still is one.
  • Constitutional crisis looms in Warsaw.
  • Hot early, wet later, and unsettled ahead.

Why we're leaving the Yougov panel

July 20th, 2017

To our surprise, this blog has been on the panel for pollsters Yougov since 2004. After cashing in our points, we've decided to leave the panel.

Yougov is an internet pollster, it sends us surveys every so often, asking us what we think about this and that. As an inducement to complete the survey, we're offered a token reward. The pay works out at about £3 per hour, well below minimum wage. We have a feeling that we've been asked to do more work for less pay, and that our insights are worth more than minimum wage to the clients.

(More: Opinion polls require knee-jerk responses from a limited diet, and mislead everyone.)

By making decisions in a bad way, we get bad decisions.

Fundamentally, we find ourselves arguing against opinion polls. They appear to be democratic but are not. We are limited to a pre-selected diet, while in a true democracy we would be able to put forward any response we wanted. The poll speciously limits our actions, the real world allows us to have two clashing ideas at the same time.

Public opinion is much greater than anything Yougov can measure. Public opinion is much greater than any binary choice.

2017 week 28

July 16th, 2017

This week…

  • Simon Cowell, whooping cough, and NCAA-ball season – it's September 1982
  • Despacito and Divide still top of the charts.
  • Something in the woodpile, bringing out the latent racists.
  • First rain in a month, but more heat next week.

2017 week 27

July 9th, 2017

This week…

  • A double feature of Jessie Cave.
  • Top of the Pops has a carnival to mark BBC 60.
  • Default number ones from Luis Fonsi and Ed Sheeran.
  • Results from the quidditch European Championship.
  • A strange and warm week.

Workfare13: a reminder from history

July 5th, 2017

KP asked after a 2013 vote to retroactively legalise penalties against people who refuse workfare schemes. Labour suggested that its MPs did not take part in this vote. Was this a major cause of Corbynism?

We consider the facts, and mull other people's conversations.

2017 week 26

July 2nd, 2017

This week…

  • On TV: Colonel K talks about his favourite gay buildings, and JTV tries to demonstrate there's anti-semitism in the Labour party.
  • Top of the Pops from August 1982 features Valerie Landsburg, and Maggie Philbin sends a letter using the cosmic address – all 16 lines of it.
  • Pop – The OCCCC has some ideas to rig their charts in a novel way. Grenfell and Radiohead have the number ones.
  • News – Same-sex marriage is happening in German-speaking areas, we've a genuine and totally not-made-up quote.
  • Weather – shit in midweek, nice for the weekend, possibly hot next week.