Marginal Error

Aside from the fact that the news this country has a new Prime Minister who is a racist liar I was bothered by the phrasing on BBC News last night. I haven’t really watched TV news for a long time, I find it patronising and reliant on the personal story rather than the facts, I don’t enjoy watching it. I viewed a little on catch up last night just to see what they said about the tory party leadership result.

BBC News Maths Problem
Marginal Error

Boris Johnson won by a MARGIN of two to one.

Now, what the actual fuck does that mean? I mean, I’m not happy Johnson won but that’s the shitty system we have. I’m really asking what does the phrase “by a margin of two to one” mean?

Does it mean that Boris got around 66% of the vote and Hunt 33% [or thereabouts]? In which case the margin is 1/3 of the electorate or you could even say the majority was 100% of Hunt’s vote. What you can’t say is the MARGIN was a ratio of 2:1 without DEFINING what the other side of the ratio is. Fucking hell, people need to understand that maths and words have meanings.

My instinct is that these numbers are the relative share of the vote, but the news chap doesn’t say that. He says MARGIN. The margin is the majority? I don’t know. How is margin defined in this case. A quick inspection of Wikipedia has the definition that MARGIN is the percentage of the difference relative to total turnout.

So, I think it would be best for the BBC and other news outlets to have used the phrase:

Mr Johnson won with a margin of around 33% of the turnout.

Not A Normal Distribution

So, I’m feeling grumpy today. Just am. Not sure why. And then I go and stupidly read an article in on the BBC News website about most babies being born at 4am. You can read the article here and I’ll be taking quotations from it.

Four o’clock in the morning is the time most babies are born spontaneously in England, with the majority arriving between 01:00 and 07:00, a study shows.

So, four o’clock is the “average” of 01:00 and 07:00. Is that how they worked this out? I’m not sure. I’m probably not going to read the original paper but it does seem a strange thing to say. Assuming that spontaneous births are reasonably random the actual number arriving at 04:00 would be quite small and the variation could be little.

While planned C-section births tended to happen on weekday mornings, births after induced labours were more likely to occur around midnight.

This makes sense. C-Sections in the morning to then make sure everyone is fine during the time when the medical cover is best. Inductions probably happen at that time because they are started in the morning and it takes that long for the effects to show. These are not surprising figures and make utter sense.

It’s this next bit that turned me into a rage.

Overall, more than 70% of births took place outside regular working hours.

And

The researchers said there could be implications for staffing of midwives and doctors, with only 28% of births taking place between 09:00 and 17:00 on weekdays.

So, an event that is reasonably random is spread throughout the day? About thirty percent of births happen in a time frame covering roughly 30% of the amount of time in a day. THIS IS WHAT WE WOULD EXPECT. The working day covers 1/3 of the 24 hours in a day and the number of births in that time period is about 1/3. This sentence made me swear out loud in our staff common room earlier today, much to the ammusment of my colleagues.

I’m going for a walk to calm down.

Ronseal

You see, sometimes the news headline writers don’t get it right. Below is the front page headline from BBC News.

Pay Gap Headline
Pay Gap Headline

It makes it look as though firms are rushing to publish their details because they want to. They want the world to know how much they don’t pay women. It makes it look like there’s a race to publish, like they really want to get that information out there. But, when you click, you get more details:

Reality
Reality

This article goes on the explain the reality. Firms are behind in publishing their details. It’s funny isn’t it, the original headline makes it look as though companies can’t wait whereas the reality is they haven’t been bothered to publish the details so far. Perhaps it’s time for new headline writers but not those employed at the Daily Mail though.

 

Lazy Headlines

A trend I have noticed more and more in the news these days is the use of quotations in a headline. This is probably because of two reasons. The first is that it is incredibly expensive to defend “libel” accusations in the English court system. This gags publishers to a certain extent. The second reason is that it makes headline writing easy and removes controversy because the publisher can say “we were using quotes”. Here are some examples from the best UK news organisation the BBC.

Quotation Marks Excuse
Quotation Marks Excuse

In the Toby Young article the term “regret” is used in quotation marks because it’s a feeling that an organisation is having. It’s obviously a bullshit term for the fact that the Office for Students’ were WRONG, but rather than admit to being wrong they claim the organsation has “regret”. Let’s face it, they were wrong.

“Intorlerance” is written because someone said it and the BBC don’t want to put any form of objective fact into the reporting. Also, this article relys on what MPs and Peers said rather than any form of what does and will work. It’s entirely opinion and therefore possibly wrong. Hence the quotation.

“Down to privilege” used in the third article is ammusing. Being in quotes means that it’s treated as an opinion rather than a potential objective truth. This saves the BBC from having to defend their wording for the article because all they are doing is quoting a scientific study, or maybe they are putting their own spin on it. It doesn’t really matter. What the BBC have done is shy away from stating an objective truth.

The world these days doesn’t seem to like the idea that some things can be known for sure and they are truths. We can test them. Hell, you can test them if you want to study for long enough. Other things are opinion. I’m not sure opinion belongs in headlines.

Not Risking It
Not Risking It

Look at these headlines. The BBC aren’t claiming the welfare system is at critical point. They aren’t being objective about it. They haven’t looked at the evidence and declared it is fucked. They have been lazy and just written down what someone said. It weakens the argument being made for investment.

“Lots to do”, if we were honest and objective then we could clearly state, without the need for speech  marks, that there is a ton of stuff still to do on Brexit. Once again the quotation weakens the argument being put forward. It lends a sense of opinion rather than reality.

“Cheating”, yeah. They were lying weren’t they. They spent more than they were allowed and yes they cheated. It doesn’t have to be in quotation marks. We know that’s what they did.

“Sexism”. This headline says that although someone accused Boris, the sexist, of being sexist, we aren’t sure and are really relying on the speech of someone else rather than declaring our foreign secretary a rascist, sexist idiot.

Just look at the US press. They accuse their president of telling “untruths” or being “misleading”. Bullshit. He’s a liar. Let’s call him that.

News agencies have a duty to report the objective truth as much as possible. The rising use of quotations means there’s less chance to offend people who can’t cope with objectivity.

QTWTAIN

The heading of this communication means:

Questions to which the answer is no

This applies to pretty much every newspaper or news headline which is a question. Suggesting something real by using a question is a weasel way out of getting sued for libel or defamation. The news organisations can use the “just asking questions” defence. Here are some potential favourites:

Did Aliens Build This Structure?

Does MMR cause autism?

Is The PM a paedophile?

and so on. You can see how this works. Headlines like this plant an idea in people’s brains and then, as you may or may not know, bad ideas get reinforced more and more as they are explained as wrong [see religion].

Here’s one I saw from the BBC:

If you want a question then it should really be:

Are Superfoods Real?

The answer to this question is NO. There are foods that are better for you than plenty of others but there aren’t really any foods that work wonders on your body. The rule with food is to eat a balanced diet and to then exercise regularly and maintain a HEALTHY weight.

So, the article goes into statistics. They performed a study on 94 volunteers, split them into three groups and fed them either butter, olive oil and coconut oil. These were not blinded in any way so the people knew which oil they were eating. Also, it’s quite a small number of people to be involved and so any findings would need much further study.

The measurements of LDL and HDL afterwards seemed to indicate that the coconut oil did have some positive benefits. This is interesting but not conclusive. There was no correction for type of person, exercise or general diet and health factors. To make this science more rigorous a study needs to be completed with many many more participants controlled for many other factors.

This study is a good start, but it needs much more work before anything conclusive can be suggested. Really, this article is an advert for the TV show in which these results are “exposed”. As it says at the bottom of this article:

The new series of Trust Me I’m a Doctor continues on BBC2 at 20:30 GMT on Wednesday 10 January and will be available on iPlayer afterwards.

So, I fixed the headline for the BBC:

 

ADDENDUM [added 5 minutes after publishing]:

Radio 4 is RIGHT NOW now running a segment on this food. They have a professor in from Cambridge. They are leading with the “celebrities are eating this stuff, should we”. I would argue that celebrities are the right people to tell us what to be eating, unless they are a registered dietitian. The scientist is now saying they were surprised that the coconut oil seemed to increase HDL “three times as much”. It was 15% compared to 5% and while that is three times as much it’s actually only going from 1.05 to 1.15 and so that is an increase of 9.5% which would be more appropriate as a measure rather than 3 times which is 300%.

Conflating absolute increases with relative increases is dangerous. It’s why we have health scares. As an example let’s suppose something goes from affecting 5 people in a thousand to 10 people in a thousand. The headlines would say that the risk doubled as it went from 5 to 10. The actual answer is that the risk has increased by 2%. It went from 0.005 to 0.01. Doing the sums the wrong way gives you bigger numbers which look scarier or better depending on what effect you want to achieve.

The end of the interview has the presenter saying this is early days and so we shouldn’t really change our eating habits yet, we should follow the official guidelines. WHICH IS EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT RUNNING THIS AS A NEWS STORY ENCOURAGES.

FFS.

</anger>.

But, but . . . .

Today is a day of rage. Everything seems to be annoying me, but I think that’s because I’m processing the latest Star Wars movie. I’m currently in the “reading proper reviews of the film” to see what I missed.

Fucking Really??

This is a headline on the BBC News Website.

It may look cool on TV

There’s your fucking answer you dimwits. Maybe it’s because you have one of the world’s most popular TV shows which promoted driving fast and dangerously for years. When you had the three twats on your show you allowed them to moan about speed cameras and how intrusive they are. They complained about the fines and implied there’s a “freedom” to drive how you want.

Maybe it’s the articles you write giving facts about how many speeding motorists have been caught by cameras?

This is sheer appalling journalism. Yet, my friends in the colonies will tell me that the BBC is the best there is. I seek out news from the BBC less and less. News has changed over the last decade.

Arrrgh. Rage.

Alt Text

This communication considers one of my favourite pieces of fiction, religion. This is a place-holding communication as I struggle to write three other communications of a more serious note. I know what I want to say in those words but words are the problem. You might have noticed I am not a natural wordsmith.

MOAB
MOAB

Nothing reported about the Pope criticising the death of many people or the use of weapons of mass destruction. The Massive Ordnance Air Bomb’s NAME shamed the pope. Perhaps the next bomb could be called “Get to heaven quicker”. Fuck you pope.

“I was ashamed when I heard the name,” the pontiff told an audience of students at the Vatican.

Nothing in the news about the thousands of priests accused of raping kids which the Vatican is actively covering up. Nothing about the misery and enforced poverty caused by a no-contraception rule. Nothing about the AIDS genocide caused by the no-contraception rule. Nothing about the deaths of babies at convents in Ireland. This man is meant to represent god on Earth. He represents an organisation of men who act just like men do when they are in charge – cunts.

Words
Words

God needs the police to investigate this because he gets really upset when people are mean about him. Oh, poor little god. He hates it when people express true things. I watched this speech a few years ago and I think what shocked people the most is how angry someone can be at a god who allows all the shit mentioned earlier to carry on. Why are people still going to catholic church? Why do they still give money when they can see the harm it does? Selfish wankers, that’s why.

Beat Them Up

I need to vent some anger and rage. I’ve been so annoyed recently at what politics and society has become that it has to come out. Normally I can get away with a rant with friends at work or friends elsewhere, definitely not the family though, there are some relationships that probably would cope with that level of anger potentially aimed towards their actions.

Now I’m picking on a soft target for my anger. Education news. And I hate talking about education. I’ve been involved in education since I was 4. I don’t have the answers but there are times when there’s plenty of bollocks and bullshit messing with kids learning things.

So, the BBC headline is:

schoolsbrexit

You can go ahead and read the story if you wish, I’ll be here, waiting.

This is a classic case of “shit goes wrong therefore blame education”. This country’s education system gets blamed for an awful lot. If there’s a need to tweek the way people feel about things then why not introduce that into schools? The government has always done one of two things:

  • Blame the education system for not influencing pupils enough the right way.
  • Blame the education system for influencing pupils enough the wrong way.

You see, the government thinks that all teachers are lefties, pinkos, commies, or liberal. The government doesn’t like teachers having power over pupils because all teachers are, by definition, caring about the future and society as a whole. The government sees schools as hot beds of resistance to the progress of society. That’s why teacher are called upon to include more and more social manoeuvring in all that they do. The government recognises that we have influence and while we influence lots the wrong way we can influence almost nothing the correct way.

What you should do is have a look over headlines and see how often “we will get schools to deal with this” crops up. It’s almost as if it’s a way for governments to say “we are dealing with that at an early age so it’ll be ok”.

Right, Brexit. In my opinion what caused Brexit? fucking austerity and a political class that shows little regard for the common man. A political class out to promote itself and not actually work for society and the progress of all. A political class whipping up notions of acceptable fascism and racism and a political class who consistently use an “us and them” rhetoric.

So there’s a correlation with social deprivation and the Brexit vote. Which means there’s a correlation with schools. THAT’S NOT CAUSATION YOU FUCKING TWAT.

So, here’s some of my views [no, they aren’t social science or proper investigations, therefore they are anecdote, but I don’t care].

  • Society has no control over what influences kids these days, social media is what influences them. They don’t watch TV like I used to or chat to their mates.
  • In the old days music was a concern because teenagers were obsessed with it. Now it is social media. Music didn’t try and sell them fake news and bullshit.
  • I might have a particular class for four hours a week. There are about 25 kids in that class. I am meant to be able influence each of these kids?
  • Kids spend 5 hours a day in lessons. Maybe another 90 minutes in school. The school enforces some of society’s rules and expectations. But that’s not a major influence on them.
  • Education, in this country, is not prized or treated as a good thing. If you have a keen, educated society you are less religious, more socially aware and more understanding. You might even pay attention to politics and things.
  • Knowing things (the correct things) should be prized. YES there are things that are correct. There is a right way to find out these things.
  • Learning to critically think and appraise news sources needs to be a skill ALL people have before being allowed to vote.

Possibly a little controversial here, but let’s face it, this communication has wandered a great deal. We have UK citizens [sorry, but really it’s fucking SUBJECTS] voting about shit they don’t understand, BREXIT, the general populous voting on a subject that the media has consistently FAILED to educate the public about what the EU does. A public that has taken all the information un-critically and voted correspondingly.

We also have the next PRESIDENT of the world’s most powerful country telling the world that you should let people make up their own minds about what is true! Utter bullshit. People have to be informed and have the facts as best determined by fucking experts. You very much don’t let the people determine what is true. You have experts, people who understand things explain WHY things are true to people.

I despair.

 

Apologies And Why They Annoy Me

I’m fed up with people, mostly MPs apologising for their dim-witted ill-informed opinions/behaviour. I taken some clips from the BBC website. Here they are:

apologise6

apologise5

apologise4

apologise3

apologise2

apologise1

So, these people feel that they did wrong and believe that apologising means it’s all ok. I think the recent spate of politicians apologising just shows how bad our representatives are [I’ve no evidence that apologies are becoming more frequent, just I am noticing it more]. If you do something wrong while in the position of public office, then fuck off and resign. Grow some balls. Become a better person.

If someone says something that they later regret [because it affects their position of power] then we should embrace what they say and use it to inform debate and discussion. I want sincere apologies and education. I want reformed behaviour. How do you show you are truly sorry? You reform.

An MP plays Candy Crush during a meeting. Why? What is wrong with his job/meeting/attention span? After our representatives are caught out they should use this as an opportunity to explain themselves, not run and hide behind an apology. The media should use this as a chance to inform and educate.

Tory Peer says the poor can’t cook. She apologises because that’s easier and quickly forgotten rather than explaining her comments and having an informed debate about why she said that. Is there a reason she believes this? Perhaps we should educate her and the rest of society. This gaff should have been used as a tool for informing people what is really going on in society and facing up to our collective responsibilities. Informed, evidence based discussion is how we change people’s minds. Apologising is the easy way out.

This tweet caused no end of trouble for the MP. I don’t understand why. She tweeted a picture of a house from Rochester. It looked pretty standard to me. She apologised. That was easy. What we didn’t have was a debate, an informed discussion about what that picture meant. We didn’t use this tweet as a opportunity to educate and inform people. The mass media used “outrage” to force an apology rather than look into the deeper social issues. We shouldn’t pretend that houses like this don’t exist, we should work at getting everyone involved in our society.

My message here is that I want people to stop apologising for things they say or do. It’s easy to apologise. It’s easy to stand up and say sorry. What is harder is admitting you have biased or poor views of the reality and then trying to change future behaviour and inform and educate people.

“I deeply regret posting that naked picture of my cock on twitter and apologise for any offence caused” – a poor apology.

“I wish to inform you that I am a bigoted old man who lusts after young women. I thought that posting a picture of my cock would encourage women to want me back. I realise that I am the product of a mostly misogynistic world where women are treated like property and I will now work tirelessly to educate people and to improve the balance of the sexes within our patriarchal inherently sexist society. I have joined the following organisations and will form a political committee with powers to adjust laws  and highlight the injustices we have in our society.” – this man would get my vote.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this. I’m annoyed by people apologising and thinking it’s all forgotten. I want apologies and then a CHANGE in behaviour. I want reformation. I want education of the issues. I don’t want these issues just dismissed with a simple apology.

I think this communication, as rambling as it is, goes with another to come. It will be titled OUTRAGE.

Chin Strap

Chin StrapThis really is a headline on the BBC News website. There’s a picture below this of a piece of chewing gum.

Apparently two engineers have taken a pre-existing material and attached it to a chin strap. It then produced some electricity when the user used their jaw and it could feasibly be used to charge a device.

I don’t even know where to start being annoyed at this. While I am nearly impressed with their idea it seems ludicrous to me that you would wear something on your FACE that then required you to use your jaw constantly. SURELY there are other parts of a body that move further and more often. This would only work if you have to wear a chin strap for safety reasons anyway [definitely not Sikhs].

Most of my anger remains directed at the BBC. They are the premier news reporting service in the UK and yet they constantly produce shit like this. Is it really someone’s job to read science journals and then EXTRAPOLATE wildly to make some form of headline that will attract readers. I hate it. It’s lazy and not what a NEWS service is for.

Let’s see what the final line of the article is:

“This is just a proof of concept,” Dr Voix emphasised. “The power is very limited at the moment.”

If you have to include this in your story then it is NOT a story. Report on real science responsibly.