Feb 102013

Pat Thomson – drawing on work by Noel Gough – likens epistemological positions to crime-novel heroes. Turns out I’m a positivist (or post-positivist? why post-?) Sherlock, though I would rather be a Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe  (guess their epistemological vantage point). They are way cooler, and I’d prefer the Bourbon over the morphine. What kind of detective are you?

Jan 052013

Every sentient and internet enabled being in the Western world has by now noticed that Amazon’s “customers who bought this item” algorithm is one of the most successful exercises in machine learning. Like various algorithms used by Google, it is oftentimes accurate as well as slightly frightening.

A friend of mine (who is an engineer) told me that he bought an administrator’s guide to Cisco routers. Amazon concluded that he might also be interested in “Cooking for one”. I, on the other hand, recently browsed the excellent Cambridge “Dictionary of Statistics” and also had a look at “All of Statistics” (preposterous title, but an interesting book – incidentally, it tries to convey statistical basics to engineers interested in machine learning). Amazon suggested to round off my order with – drum roll – “Fifty Shades of Grey”. I’m sure my students would agree that there is an intimate link between these three titles.

Nov 262012

I could drone on about neo-Gramscian approaches to Social Media, but lets be frank: The English Disco Lovers’ attempt to displace the (so far) slightly better known English Defence League from google’s number one spot is part tongue-in-cheek, part plain silly. Then again, they post silly stuff and run competitions. If you take that as an endorsement, why not like them on Facebook, follow them on twitter, or blog/tumble about them?

Dec 052010

You couldn’t make up this extract from a student’s essay a friend just sent me:

If the state allows one to free to earn more money he will do so regardless of others positions in society as human nature has a constant demand for more. This will inevitably lead to the notion of luxury goods, which is another step away from Hobbes’ “states of nature”

Apr 092010

The other day, a (rather clever) student told me that she has no real need for all these stats classes, because she will be a journalist. I told her that the world would be a better place if all journalists underwent compulsory numeracy classes. Here is the proof from my favourite newspaper. How long does it take you to spot the glitch?

Young people in the East Midlands were the most down-to-earth of those surveyed, expecting an annual salary of £33,468 by the time they reached their mid-thirties. However, even this figure is still around £4,000 higher than the average.

Two-thirds of respondents also thought they would own a house by the time they were 25. In reality, only 14% of homeowners are aged 25 or under.

With the rising cost of higher education hitting students hard, recent figures suggest young people will be left with more than £20,000 of debt by the end of their courses. But the poll shows today’s school children do not realise how out of pocket they will actually be: the average expected figure was just half the reality.


Dec 222009

Without doubt, late December is exactly the right time for reflection and (re-)assessment. Looking back on the last months, I had too many conference dinners, not nearly enough conference beers/chats, and definitively too many conference papers to read. Amongst these, the prize for the most original political science graph (along with the price for the most pointless use of too-cute images) goes to the unnamed creator of the pastiche on the right, which I have not made up and which probably just goes to show that concepts of the good are relative. Or something along these lines. As an aside, I am sure that somewhere in the world there is a culture for which The Fluffy Bunny is evil incarnate.

Competing Concepts of the Good

Competing Concepts of the Good

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