Thursday, November 29, 2012

From the thrilling days of anti-bluebell bolshevism

If for no other reason, I am thankful Facebook exists because I may not otherwise have been made aware (by my friend Chris) of this wonderful quote from the diaries of the late Queen Mother (recently published, edited by William Shawcross), apparently from 1924, when she would have been in her early 20s:

“I am extremely anti-Labour. They are so far apart from fairies and owls and bluebells & Americans & all the things I like. If they agree with me, I know they are pretending – in fact I believe everything is a pretence to them.”

This seems a tad extreme: given her extensive list of likes and dislikes -- many of them quite sensible --  I'm sure that there would have been at least some common ground to be found with Labour, even with its radical anti-bluebell faction:

“I like so many things”, the Duchess of York enthused in an early letter to [D'Arcy] Osborne, “fairy stories, fat butlers, porters, the smell of tangerines, suave Orientals, a good tune, lovely colours, French accents, puppies, bath salts, & a million more”. She disliked fewer things, but heartily. “Tactlessness annoys me – also rudeness . . . crass stupidity, & people who are pleased with themselves. Also spiders, caterpillars, slugs, frogs, toads, loud voices & nasty coughs”. 

I mean, who doesn't like puppies, suave Orientals and French accents?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Radio interview on my new book

For those of you interested in such things, I'll be interviewed about my new book -- The Most Remarkable Woman in England: Poison, Celebrity and the Trials of Beatrice Pace -- tomorrow (Wed), ca. 4pm GMT on Ireland's Newstalk 106-108 FM. 

[UPDATE]: for those who might have missed it, you can hear the interview here (from 6:40).

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Reviewed in higher places

There is a quite positive review of my new book, The Most Remarkable Woman in England, in today's Times Higher Education.

You'll find the link and a couple of signal quotes at the book-related blog.

A full list of comments and reviews is available here.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The psephological calculus

The US presidential election now seems like ages ago, but this Guardian interview is a good reminder of why analysts like Nate Silver are important.

Political commentary could use a lot more cool-headed analysis and less tendentious windbaggery.

Or, as Silver puts it:

"Numbers aren't perfect, but for me, it's numbers with all their imperfections versus bullshit. You had people saying, 'You can't quantify people's feelings through numbers!' But what's the alternative? Me sitting at my Georgetown cocktail party saying that I know how people in Toledo, Ohio, are going to vote better than the actual people of Toledo, Ohio, who answered a survey? It's incredibly presumptuous. And truth is an absolute defence. So if they got it right it would be one thing, but they didn't. They're consistently quite wrong."

Quite remarkably, reading this interview makes me want to take a statistics class.