The Snow In The Summer or So-So

10/23/2006 - 10/29/2006

Mon 23 Oct 2006

How to interpret a poll

(With a title like that, what icon were you expecting?)

Headsup has the basics of reporting opinion polls. In summary:

* A poll can only be generalized to the population that is sampled.
* Polls measure only what they measure and answer only the questions that they ask.
* Don't draw inferences by comparing separate polls unless they ask the same questions of samples drawn from the same population.
* The numbers are the story; they're what distinguish polls from horoscopes.
* What we're measuring here is the accuracy with which a randomly drawn sample (everything in the population has an equal chance of being chosen) is likely to represent the whole population.
* Changes in sample size are hugely important.
* "Sampling error" is only one kind of error.
* Sampling error for subgroups is always larger for the group as a whole, meaning a gap that's significant in a sample of all people might not be significant for people of a certain religion.

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posted 23 Oct 2006, 19.13 +0100

Two Songs a Week 39 - Leman

It's ten years to the week since Geneva's first single came out. I thought I'd written about this band in the past, but evidently not. Formed in 1992, Geneva took forever to get signed, and eventually scribbled on the line to Nude records, who had already given us Suede.

First single No one speaks (lyrics and music: Steven Dora / Andy Montgomery) came out in October 1996, and its dreamy, misty vocals fit right into that autumnal place. After this, the group would have three other minor hits - Into the blue, Tranquilizer, and Best regrets - but by the time their album Further emerged in 1997, the anti-Britpop backlash was in full swing. With the organ's typical flair for error, the NME saw the group as nothing more than a manufactured band. A second album, Weather Underground, emerged in 2000, but Geneva had truly missed the boat.

What went wrong? As with My Life Story (qv), fashion had moved past the group. The crazy summer of 1997 was a time for surface renewal, of casting away the veneer of intelligence and revelling in the schlock of something new. Smart, neo-classical compositions didn't cut it any more - to succeed, you had to be thick, like the Verve and Oasis.

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posted 23 Oct 2006, 21.26 +0100

Two Songs a Week

Tue 24 Oct 2006

What's wrong with this pollster?

Yesterday, you will have read a potted guide to handling opinion polls. (If you're reading the archive, it's the next item up.) To-day, the examination. What's wrong with the write up of a poll, published in Monday's Universal Daily Registertab? Here's the opening; your task is to spot two glaring errors.

Swing voters prefer Brown to Cameron

GORDON BROWN has a substantial lead over David Cameron among swing voters, according to a poll to be published today.

The first survey to compare the two men among the 25 per cent of voters whose decisions tend to determine the general election outcome will be a boost for the Chancellor. After a string of polls suggesting that the Tory leader is ahead generally among voters, the survey gives Mr Brown a 27-point lead among swing voters [51% to 24%] and is likely to help calm fears among Labour MPs that he might be an electoral liability.

The poll, conducted by The Times pollster Populus for a new think-tank, Opinion Leader Forum, involved interviews with 1,018 people, 242 of them swing voters, from October 13 to 15. It is statistically a small sample; the findings therefore have to allow for a margin of error of at least plus or minus 3 per cent.

The poll defined swing voters as people who are inclined to vote Labour at present, but say there is a fair chance of them going to another party — and those currently inclined to vote for another party or unsure about which one to vote for, but who say there is a fair chance of switching to Labour.

Respond in the comments, if you wish; model answers to-morrow.

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posted 24 Oct 2006, 18.44 +0100

Forty miles down

Panama A series of extensions to the Panama Canal were approved in a referendum on Sunday. The new canal will be wider, allowing more ships to pass through.

Sitting in front of Christopher Biggins at a comedy show is like...

Oxford snarking

Magdalen College Oxford, presumably in the hope of notoriety, commissioned the former Beatle to turn his attention to "the classical end of things" for the inaugaration of a new concert hall. It took him eight years, but it sounds like the work of eight minutes. Melodically the cantata is banal to the point of embarrassment, while the macaronic text, which McCartney assures us tells us what really is in his heart is depressingly feeble.

Rick Jones, Universal Daily Registertab, reviewing Paul Fab Macca Whacky Thumbs Aloft!!'s new pseudo-classical composition Ecce Cor Blimey Gov. As if Magdalen would ever do something because it makes the kindergarten-with-attitude look good, rather than because it is of genuine quality...

Currybet on the lack of interactivity in The Mary Whitehouse Experience.

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posted 24 Oct 2006, 19.36 +0100


Wed 25 Oct 2006

What's wrong with this pollster redux

Returning to the poll examination I set yesterday. The two errors are:

1. A sample of 242 people does not lead to a margin of (sampling) error of ±3%. It leads to a sampling error of sqrt(0.25/242)*1.96 = 6.3%. While it's most likely that Mr. Brown will continue to enjoy a 20-point lead amongst the population from which the sample was taken, the lead could easily be as low as 13%. Or as great as 40%.

2. The population from which the sample was taken is not the entire country. It is defined as Labour voters who might switch to any other party, or people who might vote Labour. Now, the fieldwork for this question is not available, but it would not be unreasonable to assume that it was similar to the most recent Populus poll.

In the published survey (PDF link), we find there were 294 Conservatives (+7 on last year), 279 Labours (-79), 150 Lib Dems (-38), and 84 Others (+21).

The population asked this question would be the 80 or so Labour defectors, plus (roughly) 70 people who say their Labour vote is soft in any direction, plus a further 50 Conservative voters who might go Labour, and 40 Lib Dems and others who might go Labour. Conservative - Lib Dem switchers don't get asked to choose between Brown and Cameron, though it's these marginals that could make the difference between a minority and majority Conservative government. Nor do people who might not vote at all, unless they might vote Labour.

Now, what can we say about the population asked this question? It contains something like 150 people who voted Labour last time, 50 Tories, 40 Lib Dems and others. If we scale that up to the nation as a whole, the publication suggests that Labour got something like 60% of the popular vote. This is not correct; barely 35% of voters supported the party.

What does the result tell us? A sample containing almost twice as many Labour voters as the country as a whole likes Gordon Brown twice as much as it likes David Cameron. And, er, that's it. The claim that this represents the country as a whole is an utter lie, but I would expect nothing else from the Universal Daily Registertab, an organ hopelessly far up Labour's arse.

With thanks to UK Polling Report for bringing the poll to my attention in the first place.

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posted 25 Oct 2006, 19.31 +0100


Thu 26 Oct 2006

Two Songs a Week 40 - Powerpill

If my memory serves correctly, it's twenty-four years ago this week-end since Saturday Superstore gave the first television exposure to a new video game, one that would surpass the then-ubiquitous Space Invaders as the most popular one on the planet. Remember Mike Read's little avatar being gobbled up by ghosts in about ten seconds flat?

Almost inevitably, there was a cash-in record, recorded by Jerry Buckner and Gary Garcia. Pac-Man Fever is very early-80s, and even without looking at the video, you can just about see the mullets. Slightly alarmingly, Buckner and Garcia are still recording, and promise (or threaten) us with a new album this autumn.

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posted 26 Oct 2006, 19.16 +0100

Two Songs a Week
Cars are cars, all over the world

Richmond-upon-Thames The council proposes an increase in the cost of residential parking permits for larger and more polluting cars; it will also increase the charge for second and subsequent permits. This is a small step to reducing the dependence on the car, and we welcome the idea, but with a caveat.

Ideally the scheme must be revenue-neutral for a recent base year (ideally, 2005-6, but we accept that data may not be complete.) The council would not profit from the polluting habits of its residents. Alternatively, any profit from the change must be directed to environmental improvements, with a strong bias towards small-scale changes for road transport.

Arts news

Margaret Atwood ... six-word sci-fi?

We're laughing at the Torygraph's Muzak feature this week. The Moby: 10 Best feature contains nothing published prior to 1999's Play. And, apparently, the greatest new force in popular music is emo, as some of us were saying almost five years ago.


The route for the 2007 Tour de France has been confirmed. The prologue will be in London on 7 July, followed by a trip through the flatlands of K*nt to Canterbury. Then a brief detour into Belgium, reaching the Alps at the end of the first week. No trip up Alpe d'Huez this year, which is a mercy for those of us who think it's a bit boring. Five days along the south coast before three full days in the Pyrenees - there's an extra day compared to recent tours. Two flat days in the south-west - omitting Bordeaux, another rarity - before the traditional final week-end. Individual time-trials on the last two Saturdays, no team time-trial.

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posted 26 Oct 2006, 20.00 +0100


Fri 27 Oct 2006


Telly at the moment, then. No, I'm not bothering with The John Barrowman Show, because I still remember the days of Ratz on Live And/or Kicking. It does provide an excuse for a re-run of Look Around You I, so it's not utterly without merit.

After being a steaming pile of unwatchable tripe for the past five years - not helped by its then-owner Vivendi going out of business in 2001 - the Sci-Fi Channel has finally found a bit of budget and is showing some decent programmes. Firefly is, in fairness, on about its fifth repeat cycle, but this is the first time it doesn't go up against something more telling. Though anything going out at 7pm Sunday doesn't have much in the way of opposition. At five episodes in, I'm not getting tremendously much out of the programme - it's perfectly entertaining, but it's not anything like as brilliant as the hype makes out.

Dead Like Me is Sci-Fi's other pickup, and it's a test to the lazy (but often true) assumption that All Pilots Are Rubbish. This one had me drawn in within the half-hour, and it was with a little regret that I turned off half-way through to complete my set of Broken News (the hi-jack episode - utter comedy genius). Surprising that it's taken three years for this one to reach the UK.

Rather interested in Tripping Over, a Channel 5 original drama (yes, a Channel Five Original Drama, live with us on this), about a group of people who meet up in the far-east and everything that happens after. Worth running a tape under, I hope.

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posted 27 Oct 2006, 19.25 +0100


Sat 28 Oct 2006

In parliament this week

Jeff Rooker warns the single farm payment system won't work next year. How come ministerial heads haven't rolled over this?

I get the chance to watch Good Morning Isleworth, said Speaker Martin. Perhaps this explains why he is so impossibly rubbish at his job.

The interior ministry quietly said it would bar Romanians and Bulgarians from seeking employment in the UK after those countries join the EU next January. Two matters arise here: first, isn't this the remit of the Department for Unemployment? Second, how come this was snuck out through the tradesman's entrance of a written statement, without John Reid having to defend it under questionning? Has the attack dog lost its bite? Or just its brain, for these rules won't deter dishonest people. Anyway, the whole kitten caboodle will be administered by the Immigration and Nationality Dunderheads, which were described just the other month as "not fit for purpose" by a Mr. J. Reid of Glasgow. | Philippe Legrain |

An interesting discussion in the Lords regarding Yankee legal creep, and European legal creep. We rather had Nigel Lawson-Badger down as a Europhile...

New electoral boundaries should be in force early next year.

The foreign office's human rights report was formally closed on 1 June, but final updates (ie badmouthing Hizbollah) were accepted up to the August bank holiday.

A whole debate on call centre culture goes all the way from Delia Smith to Noam Chomsky in one speech. The government spokesperson (Jim Fitzpatrick, PUSNUS) stated that offshore call centres remain bound by the UK's data protection act, and that he will chastise OFCOM for its lamentable inability to enforce its own rules.

A debate on why satellite navigation is a crock.

The Lords debate Labour's re-writing of history, including such bons mots as "The Conservatives won the general election of 1979 and stayed out of office until 1997." Have they been repackaging 1966 And All That?

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posted 28 Oct 2006, 11.33 +0100


Sun 29 Oct 2006

Summing up

I promise this will be the final word in the How To Read A Poll series, at least until something better comes along. Another poll has asked, would you prefer Mr. Brown or Mr. Cameron? And, surprise surprise, it's 46% for Mr. C, 33% for Mr. B. Unlike the poll in the Universal Daily Registertab at the start of the week, this poll is properly balanced and weighted to the country as a whole.

You'll never pickle again and other mistranslations of English.

What does Katie Holmes see in this nonsense?

Speaking of nonsense, Matthew Parris on how the God Squad (in the form of Rev. A.R.P. Blair) nobbled the education secretary

Gareth Stansfield suggests reconstructing Iraq along the Belgian model. You'll be aware that Belgium is split into Dutch, French, and German divisions, plus one for Brussels. Mr. Stansfield's proposal sees Iraq split into Sunni, Shia, Kurd, and Baghdad regions.

Val Gilbert, Puzzle Panel regular and crossword editor of the Sunday Torygraph, is retiring.

Who loses from John Reid's pathetic posturing? British Airways, to the tune of a hundred million pounds.

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posted 29 Oct 2006, 12.06 +0000

RAJAR figures, Q3 2006

Hmm. It looks like we haven't previously done the Third Quarter RAJAR figures. Better late than never...

In each case, the figures are a weighted average of the most recent quarter's figure, and the middle three of the previous five quarters. This gives a trend figure based on a one-year sample, more stable than the individual quarters.

Share (in the regional tables) is the percentage of listeners who heard the station.

Hours is the average listening figure per person in the area, whether they listened or not.

National stations

Assumed national audience: 49,520,000.

UK national stations, 3rd quarter 2006
BBC national stations
Radio 1103612h02
Radio 2130513h23
Radio 319950h16
Radio 494172h29
Radio 558880h57
World Service13060h09
Asian Network4480h04
Analogue national stations
Classic FM58710h54
Talk Sport21860h23
Virgin 121517540h13
Analogue national stations
Capital Disney590h00
Planet Rock3910h03
Smash Hits7710h03

* 3C and Chill have only three and two quarters of data. 3C reports 98,000 listeners, Chill 120,000; both have 1 minute.

West Midlands local stations, 3rd quarter 2006
BBC local stations
Asian Network (WM)49683.8%0h19
Hereford and Worcester50525.7%2h50
Regional stations
Heart (WM)346924.0%2h11
Saga (WM)346911.5%1h25
Heart (EM)202416.4%1h28
Saga (EM)201712.0%1h17
Heritage local stations
Galaxy (WM)202116.8%1h23
Small-scale local stations
Bear / Kix55618.7%1h37
Heritage AM local stations
Mercia AM6605.3%0h30

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posted 29 Oct 2006, 15.30 +0000

Music in week 43

Another week, another new German number one. It's Silbermond, Das beste really is the best-seller this time around. Yvonne Catterfeld is also in the top ten. There's no major change at the top in France, but we note Lily Allen has cracked the top 20 there. In Sweden, Darin comes straight in at number 3 with a song called Perfect. The Dixie Chicks also have their first top 20 hit in a major European country, as Not ready to make nice makes the list in Sweden. New number one in Norway, too, as Marion Raven's duet with Meat Loaf, It's all coming back to me now, hits the top in her homeland. Bjørn Eidsvåg goes straight into the top five. Remember Wigwam? The rockiest entry in the first fifty years of Eurovision (Norway, 2005) have been completely eclipsed by Lordi, and their new single, Bygone zone, enters at number 16 in their home chart.

North Europe's Top Twenty

*20 NE Puff Daddy - Come to me
 19 17 Kooks - She moves in her own way
*18 NE Silbermond - Das beste
 17 10 Lemar - It's not that easy
 16 15 Evanescence - Call me when you're sober
 15 14 Nelly Furtado - Maneater
 14 18 Basshunter - Boten Anna
 13 12 Cascada - Everytime we touch
*12 13 Killers - When you were young
 11 11 Shakira - Hips don't lie
*10 20 My Chemical Romance
   - Welcome to the black parade
  9  6 Justin Numberwang - Hairyback
  8  7 Bob Sinclar - Rock this party
  7  9 Fratellis - Chelsea digger
* 6  8 Pink - You and your hand
  5  4 Muse - Starlight
  4  2 Lily Allen - LDN
  3  5 Seizure Sisters - I don't feel like dancing
* 2  3 Razorlight - America
* 1  1 Nelly Furtado - Promiscuous

Puff Daddy features the one singer from the Pussyprat Dulls. Silbermond's is a gentle ballad, though with a certain twist in the lyrics.

Another McFly single, another McFly number one - Stargirl becomes the band's sixth chart-topper from 10 releases. It beats out singles from Freddie le Grand and the Council Estate Slappers, proving that Radio 1 support is not required for a big hit. Bouncey Knowles climbs to 5 on release, Amy Whinehouse makes 7, Bodyrocks come in at 11 with downloads of their dance gubbins, Cassie makes 12 on full release. The View have their second hit, and their second number 15 hit.

We're getting a bit bored with the Magic Numbers; their harmonies are fun, but it's all the same schtick. 16 for their newie. Rhianna has reissued her slow song again, it's number 17. New singles from the both the Kooks and the Raconteurs, indistinguishable from their last ones. Or was that the Dirty Pretty Things' last one? Oh, it's all the same. Long Blondes are the distinctive kind of pop-rock, all jangly guitars and sung vocals. Upper Street - a manband manufactured from parts of old bore bands - has been heavily promoted on Viacom's selling channels. Which probably explains why their record is a) utter shit and b) entering at number 35 with an anvil. Haven't the Cooper Temple Clause (36) split? And why not? Massive, 20-place falls for the Ordinary Bores and Jamie T show that the days of fanbase acts charting high and then exiting are not over.

Mumm-Ra just miss the top 40, as do download releases from Panic At The Disco and Simon Webbe. Lower down the 75 come download entries from Sean Paul and Jamiroquai, and full releases (I assume) from Cass Fox, Nylon, Game, Alesha, and Shitdisco.

On the albums, the top four are all new entries - The Tedious Bert Bills at the top, My Chemical Romance at 2, Meat Loaf at 3, and Rod Stewart at 4. Also high new entries for John Legend (10), the Ordinary Bores (14). Good climbs for Lemar (30-17), and Gnarls Berk (65-37). Elaine Paige's collection of favourite songs from musicals (most featuring E. Paige) can only make 46, while the Pet Shop Boys' latest remix album, Concrete, sets at 61. Finally, Panic At The Disco creep into the album chart at 75, but more of them next week. Aargh, I'm turning into James Masterton!

Here's the good stuff on the singles listing:

 1 NE McFly - Stargirl
 4  1 My Chemical Romance
  - Welcome to the black parade
 6  2 Razorlight - America
 9  6 Meat Loaf and Marion Raven
  - It's all coming back to me now
15 60 View - Superstar tradesman ^^
16 NE Magic Numbers - Love's a game
19  9 Little Chris - Checking it out
20 58 Kooks - Ooh la ^^
21 17 Shakira - Hips don't lie
22 NE Raconteurs - Broken boy soldier
24 22 High School Musical OCR - Breaking free
25 15 Nelly Furtado - Promiscuous
27 16 Killers - When you were young
29 18 Lily Allen - LDN
30 NE Long Blondes - Once and never again
37 25 Evanescence - Call me when you're sober
39 28 Pink - You and your hand
42 36 Feeling - Never be lonely
44 34 Lemar - It's not that easy
45 NE Mumm-Ra - Out of the question
46 NE Panic At The Disco **
  - I write sins not tragedies
51 39 Goo Goo Dolls - Iris / Stay with you
52 23 Pet Shop Boys - Numb
53 46 Kooks - She moves in her own way
55 41 Bedouin Soundclash
  - When the night feels my song
56 42 Hot Chip - Over and over
63 45 Muse - Starlight
67 30 Holloways - Generator

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posted 29 Oct 2006, 19.10 +0000

Weather in week 43

The dominant south-westerly airflow briefly eased round to a more north-westerly direction early in the week, clearing away some unusually fetid air. The milder airflow resumed with a particularly sticky Thursday night.

23 Mo sun                  7/12
24 Tu sun                  8/14, 2.0
25 We rain                 4/12,14.5
26 Th cloud to sun        14/16
27 Fr sunny spells         6/12
28 Sa cloud                9/17
29 Su sun                  9/15

101.5mm of rain so far this month, almost double the month's average. Degree-hearing days are required, these are calculated as the difference between the average (minimum + maximum /2) temperature and 10°C. For instance, Friday's average is 9°C, so it contributes 1 to the week's total of 3½ degree heating days. We were still on 0 last year, but 2004 had already racked up 17½. The totals - 2005/6 - generally perceived as a cold winter - had 808, the mild 2004/5 still had 677½

The south-westerly winds persist into the middle part of the week, but cold air is set to topple down as high pressure builds over Iceland. It may be a fairly short cold snap, as we're set to see warmer air towards the week-end, but that's a best-guess prediction, so do wrap up.

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posted 29 Oct 2006, 19.15 +0000


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