The Jazz Sushi Survey

When I was just a young rabbit, I was taken, as a treat, to see the National Youth Jazz Orchestra who happened to be playing in my village. It was an epiphany and I was transfixed. Never in my life had I imagined music could be made so utterly awful. Equally shocking was that a good many people around me seemed to be enjoying it, and not just a little bit either. A ginger man a couple of seats away with his eyes closed looked for all the world like he was having an orgasm for the entire concert and for all I know he was.

Years later, I was having a pint with a mate in our local pub, The King of Toss, near Marble Arch. Above the King of Toss was a restaurant to which neither of us had paid any attention in the years since we’d been drinking there. Seemingly no one else had been paying it any attention because on that night a member of the waiting staff came into the pub with a plate of sushi, offering free samples in a bid to entice some drinkers upstairs. So I tried some. This, ladies and gentlemen, was my second epiphany. Never in my life had I imagined food could be made so utterly awful. How could it possibly have been that bad? After all, I like rice, I like fish. In fact given the same ingredients I could probably have made something quite nice. This was anything but. The rice has a texture like it had been cooked the day before, left in the pan to dry then scraped off. It was topped with little red things which seemed to have been sprayed with essence of unwashed genitalia and it was wrapped in one of those unbreakable plastic ribbons that bind up telephone directories. Bizarrely my mate liked it.

At some point in the years since, it occurred to me that I thought about jazz and sushi in pretty much the same way. Not simply in my dislike for them but in the way that I just didn’t get them. I knew plenty of people who were enjoying these pleasures and I would never be able to understand why.
I don’t like Crufts but I can understand why people like it. They get to see the most classically beautiful dogs all standing in a row. I just prefer dogs when they’re fetching sticks and eating slippers but that’s just my preference and I understand theirs.

Jazz and sushi were incomprehensible to me though and the more I thought about it, the more I wondered if these two seemingly unconnected things were in fact connected through people’s preferences. i.e. was there a correlation between people who liked jazz and people who liked sushi? Were these two things completely unrelated or was there a disproportionately high proportion of us who liked both or disliked both compared with the proportion of people who liked one or the other?

This previously unidentified correlation has been an untested theory of mine in the years since but then came Twitter and suddenly I had the perfect opportunity to test it out.

Last week I asked people two Yes/No questions:

  • Do you like jazz?
  • Do you like sushi?

And thanks to those who responded and retweeted it I ended up with 112 responses.

And so to the numbers. Firstly, I worked out the proportion of people who like jazz and the proportion of people who like sushi. The results were:


Using these numbers, I worked out my ‘null hypothesis’. i.e. what the results would be if there is no correlation.
i.e. of the 112 respondents, if there is no correlation between liking jazz and liking sushi then the proportion of people who like sushi and like jazz is:

112 x (64.6% x 54.87%) = 40.41 people.

The full results of this are:

Then I compared this with what the 112 people actually said:

Interesting… there are more people in the like both and like neither than there should be if the null hypothesis is true. Sure enough when I calculated the correlation it came out at 0.17.

Correlation is expressed as a number between -1 and 1. A correlation of 1 means that the correlation is perfect i.e. for me to get a correlation of 1 everybody who liked sushi would have to like jazz and everybody who disliked sushi would have to dislike jazz. A correlation of -1 represents a perfect negative correlation. In my case this would have meant that everyone who liked jazz disliked sushi and everyone who disliked jazz liked sushi. A correlation of 0 would mean there was no correlation at all between the data. My correlation looked like this:

So I had a correlation and better still it was a positive one, but although my figures had a correlation could it just have been I got lucky?

To determine this I needed to work out what the probability of this happening by chance would be if the null hypothesis were true.
I decided to use a fairly standard way of testing significance – that the probability of such an outcome would have to be less than or equal to 1 in 20. i.e. if there is no correlation then results as convincing as mine could come up no more than 1 in every 20 repeats of such an experiment – a significance level of 0.05.

Therefore, if the probability of my set of results coming up is greater than 0.05 then the probability of it having happened by chance is too great, my correlation is not significant and my results are inconclusive. If the probability is less than 0.05 then the chances of this having happened by chance are negligible and my correlation is statistically significant.

Are you ready? Drum roll, please. The probability of a correlation as pronounced as mine having happened by chance is……..0.045!!

That’s right, I really did it. I really did find a correlation between liking jazz and liking sushi. The theory I have held for ages has at last been proven.

I am not going to call it RedEaredRabbit’s Law. After all it is too important to be just mine – it should belong to all of us. I am instead going to call it Cole’s Law. (Nothing to do with Cole Porter  – I’ve just always wanted to call a law that.)

At some point I’ll explain why my method of gathering the data wasn’t perfect but for now I’m just going to bask in my glory.

RedEaredRabbit

P.S. I didn’t mean to imply that jazz and sushi were awful in absolute terms. Just that I dislike them and am personally unable to appreciate them. Don’t lynch me, please.

P.P.S. Please also read the follow up post to this survey here.

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Science and Scientology

The two things one should not blog about during dinner parties, so I have been told, are politics and religion. On this blog I may have strayed once or twice into the former, so it’s probably high time I did the latter.

I sometimes think Scientologists are given a bit of a hard time. Recently, for example, we had the Twitstorm where some Lib Dem Councillor or other tweeted:

I didn’t know the Scientologists had a church on Tottenham Court Road. Just hurried past in case the stupid rubs off.

Scientologists grew outraged and the rest of us all had a jolly good laugh at their stupid beliefs and their stupid ire.

I realised when all this broke that although I too thought all of this was funny, I actually had a rather poor grasp of exactly what it was they believed. I thought it was probably stupid but was it really? I decided to do some research.

My first point of call was the official Church of Scientology UK website. It proudly states:

The word Scientology is taken from the Latin scio, which means “knowing in the fullest sense of the word,” and the Greek word logos.

Ok. That makes the word Sciology though, doesn’t it? After all the study of living organisms is biology, not biontology.*

It goes on to define their ‘Creed’ which includes:

That all men have inalienable rights to their own lives
That all men have inalienable rights to their sanity
That all men have inalienable rights to their own defense
That all men have inalienable rights to the creation of their own kind
That the souls of men have the rights of men

So far, so sexist but it would be hard to single out Scientology from other religions for sexism. Also I couldn’t really argue that these were stupid. Dull perhaps; vague definitely but not exactly stupid.

The rest of the content on the website, other than their community projects, is similarly vague. Trying to get a specific understanding of exactly what their beliefs are from the website is a bit like asking David Cameron pre-election what his fiscal policy would be:

I believe taxes should be fair.

Fair? Brilliant, what a novel idea! I’m voting for you – I require no further detail.

I was getting nowhere. I tried Wikipedia. According to Wikipedia, Scientologists believe that Xenu, the dictator of the Glactic Confederacy, came to Earth 75 million years ago with billions of his people, stacked them around volcanoes and killed them using hydrogen bombs.

Shit! Now that’s more like it! Wikipedia goes on to explain that the Xenu story is a secret teaching which Scientologists don’t discuss outside their church. The problem with Wikipedia though is that anyone can edit it. Is this the true Scientology belief or just people up to mischief?

The official website links to another called What is Scientology?. Although this mentions nothing about Xenu it does have rather a lot on the practice of ‘Auditing’.

The goal of auditing is to restore beingness and ability. This is accomplished by (1) helping the individual rid himself of any spiritual disabilities and (2) increasing individual abilities. Obviously, both are necessary for an individual to achieve his full spiritual potential.

Obviously.

Auditing, then, deletes those things which have been added to the reactive mind through life’s painful experiences and addresses and improves one’s ability to confront and handle the factors in his life.

What does auditing use to do this exactly? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the E-Meter!

E-Meter

E-Meter

Despite looking like a futuristic goat milking machine, this is in fact referred to as a ‘religious artifact’.

One of the primary reasons auditing works is because the strength of the auditor’s dynamic thrust is added to the preclear’s dynamic thrust…

Steady on. Despite the racey language, I had found some claims being made in an official context. So were they stupid ones? Could the claims be backed up?

At this stage, I must come clean about something. I am, by education at least, a scientist. I have a background in developing understanding through the scientific method. I believe in developing a hypothesis and testing it against experience, experiment and evidence to determine whether or not it is correct.

Sadly, the website presents no evidence for the validity of auditing. There is a section called validation of results which says:

…the Church makes no claims or guarantees of the gains someone will make in auditing. Church staff, however, have seen so many remarkable improvements in parishioners that they expect such results as a matter of course.

That’s not really a validation of results. I don’t think I could win a Nobel Prize for my cheese sandwich, no matter how much I stress unnamed colleagues have seen it performing excellently as a cold fusion reactor.

But religious claims without evidence aren’t exactly new are they? When asked why I don’t believe in a god, I generally say something like, “The overwhelming lack of evidence.” I may then get a response along the lines of “It’s not about evidence – it’s about faith.”

‘Faith’ is something I’m afraid I just don’t understand. I don’t understand how any subject no matter how unlikely it all seems can be arbitrarily raised above logical conjecture and the need for evidence. But let’s put that to one side and suppose everyone has their own faith ‘get out of jail free’ card they can use to circumvent any such inconveniences:

  • Scientologists played their faith card with Xenu, Thetans and Dianetics.
  • Christians played theirs with god, miracles and the immaculate conception.
  • Ancient Greeks played theirs with Zeus, Poseidon and Hades.
  • Vikings played theirs with Odin, Loki and Valhalla.
  • I played mine on my cheese-sandwich-cold-fusion reactor.

None of these things is any more likely or has any more evidence than any of the others. They are all simply things which if you believe, you must take based on ‘faith’. It is therefore impossible for me to agree that Scientology is any more stupid than any of these other creations; that thetans are less likely to exist than Biblical miracles or that Dianetics has any greater or lesser substance than prayer. I disbelieve all of them in equal measure.

There are plenty of stories suggesting that Scientology has an unhealthy recruitment policy, preying on and brainwashing the vulnerable. If this is indeed the case, I can only say I find it absolutely repellent. This and perhaps other points I have not researched may well mean it has other negativities but that’s not something I know enough about to pass judgment and an unhealthy recruitment ethic doesn’t necessarily make its beliefs any more or less stupid than the competition.

Stupid or not, there is one thing I do know about which Scientology pisses me off more than other faiths:

Fuck off with the name which tries to make you sound like you have any basis in science because you don’t.

Science is beautiful. Science is everything you are not. Science is ours. Leave it alone.

RedEaredRabbit


* Latin and Greek are hardly my strongest subjects, so I am probably going to get egg on my face once all my old Etonian followers read this.

P.S. Despite the title, this post was not written by Jane Austen.

If this is Duncan’s Dream, can I be Freddie Krueger?

It would seem a fairly uncontroversial statement to say that wealth is not synonymous with genius. Despite this, the world seems littered with wealthy people who seem unable to dissociate the two. Take Prince Charles for instance. Prince Charles recently had an idea that putting coffee up your bum would be a far more effective method of treating cancer than using chemotherapy.

The fact that this is a bad idea, is by the by. The point is that because Prince Charles is rich and powerful he assumes his ideas must be good ones and so we all have to listen to them.

Tweeters amongst you will probably have noticed the #duncansdream hastag doing the rounds in recent days. If you aren’t aware, this refers to the dream of Duncan Bannatyne, one of the rich people who is rude to poor people on Dragon’s Den. This in his own words is Duncan’s dream:

#duncansdream means all my followers follow each other then they will all have 93,912 followers each

That’s the dream. All his followers follow each other and get 93,912 followers each. Maybe world peace will be next week.

If it weren’t for the 140 character limit the above tweet would have probably have included *stands back* *takes bow* *pats self on back*. So wealthy is Duncan Bannatyne that he is now totally unable to differentiate his own ideas from true genius and I’m afraid there is a rather large problem with this one.

Let’s do what Duncan forgot to do and think this through with an example. Theo is on Twitter and follows Duncan. He follows 100 other people because he likes what they write. 50 people follow him back because they like what he writes. Duncan’s dream comes to fruition and suddenly Theo has 93,000 followers. Genius? No.

The problem is that Theo is now following 93,000 people himself. Prior to the dream he followed 100 and followed them because he liked them. These people whose tweets he actually wanted to read now represent only about 0.1% of what he has signed up for. These are now all mixed in with the new 99.9% which he followed not because he wanted to read them but because it was Duncan’s dream. Please tell me how his Twitter experience has improved because of this.

If Forrest Gump was right and Twitter is like a box of chocolates then prior to the dream Theo had just those purple ones with a hazelnut in which he likes the best. Post-dream all the purple hazelnut ones have been mixed in with all the ones he doesn’t like, eaten up and shat out. To get what he wants, Theo is now tasked with picking through the poo looking for traces of purple hazelnut chcocolate.

This isn’t just a problem for Theo though, all of the other 93,000 have just realised they have exactly the same problem. Duncan’s dream has just completely fucked up the following list of every one of Duncan’s followers. This is not even a good thing for Duncan. Remember, Duncan was one of the people they had chosen to follow before hand – one of the purple hazelnut chocolates. His tweets too have been lost in the poo. Your 93,000 followers can’t hear you any more, Duncan. Sorry.

If Duncan’s dream were a good idea then a logical extension would be that everyone on Twitter should follow everyone else – i.e. bin the whole following thing and everyone shout at once. If I follow someone it is because I would like to hear what they have to say. If someone is proposing to me that following people when I don’t want to hear what they have to say is a genius idea then I’m afraid – I’M OUT.

RedEaredRabbit

Geostationary Lube

It’s funny how social groups form on Twitter. But before I get into all of that, let’s take a step back.

After the big bang, one could reasonably assume that all matter in the universe would be equally spread – that all particles would be spaced out in equilibrium for all eternity. From observation though, we know this is not the case. Matter is not equally spaced out in the universe, something at some point made some of it stick together to form things like the Sun, Jupiter, Mercury and (the cock) George Osborne.

Similarly, users on Twitter do not follow other users in an evenly spread equilibrium. One slight perturbation can send users scattering around, sometimes bouncing, sometimes sticking, forming their own galaxies and within the galaxies, their own solar systems.

One such solar system is Stationery Club.

TheAzzo, TheManWhoFell, Carrozo and the uninhabitable gas giant, Biltawülf are some of the many Stationery Club planets in orbit around the binary stars of Wowser and IamJamesWard.

The icy comet of RedEaredRabbit has long felt the gravitational pull of Stationery Club and yesterday it entered into a stable orbit.

Enough metaphor.

I’ll be honest – I have no great interest in stationery but, despite this, in recent months, I have found myself drawn deeper and deeper into a group of people who are all members of a Twitter based group called Stationery Club. What is the raison d’être for such a society?

Stationery Club is where people go to talk about stationery.

Seriously, I am not making this up.

And so it was, that last night I found myself in Camden, braving 28C temperatures and drug dealers, en route to the third meeting of this prestigious establishment. Despite performing a continual (and seamless) stream of exquisite martial art upon the pill-pushers as I walked, I was in fact, deep in thought.

  • How will I recognise them?
  • Will we have anything to say to one another when I do?
  • What if this is an elaborate ruse to entrap me so they can cut off my willy then cook and eat it like what happens on the internet?
  • It really is uncommonly hot today
  • My martial arts skills are totally sweet

When I entered the pub, my first worry was immediately eased, as I was hullooed by TheManWhoFell – the one person attending who had ever met me.

As I wrote previously, he is far more than I at ease in Twitter etiquette and proved it by swiftly introducing me to the group, which included ChocoSquirrel, Wowser, Biltawülf, OyeBilly, Mapsadaisical and The Azzo all with whom I tweet regularly.

As time moved on, more and more people showed up and each time someone did I found myself in an odd and increasingly familiar situation : This person could be some random member of Stationery Club I wasn’t aware of, or it could be one of the people I converse with regularly on Twitter that I had turned up specifically to meet – after all, I had no idea what anyone looked like.
Fortunately, TheManWhoFell did a hugely professional job of assisting in introductions. For example, he introduced me to @rhodri:

TheManWhoFell : Rhodri, do you follow RedEaredRabbit?

Rhodri : No, I don’t think so, no.

TheManWhoFell : Well you definitely should do, he’s great.

Me : Just a minute, you don’t follow me yourself, you bastard.

TheManWhoFell : Don’t I? Well, I definitely should. I’ll do it immediately.

(He still isn’t following me)

We moved on – during the next 3 hours we learnt all there was to know about Post-It Notes. As I mentioned, the stationery aspect of the evening was not what had brought me along but in its own way the subject in the hands of James Ward became surprisingly magical.

More to the point, I talked a lot to, and interacted with, the people around me. ChocoSquirrel wrote out “Stationery Club” on Post-It Notes and stuck them to the table. After a few lexicographically immature moves this had been transposed to….

….I enjoyed that.

I won’t spend time on the stationery part – I’m sure this will be covered by my others, but I did get to ask a question to the actual inventor of Post-It Notes. I asked if he was in fact James Ward’s grandfather and how much James was paying him tonight to act the part. Fortunately, James did not ban me from Stationery Club for this minor indiscretion and we had instead a nice chat at the bar about New York and his imminent visit. He was lovely.

So – you know my reason for attending Stationery Club wasn’t the stationery, so what was it? My reason was simply to meet some of the brilliant people I know only through Twitter, to have a beer with them and to see for myself if someone you like in the virtual world is someone you would like in the real world.

Here is the raw data so you can perform your own statistical analysis:

Or in graphical form:

Ultimately though, I will rate the evening according to two simple measures:

Did I have a good time?
A resounding YES. The kind of people I get on with on Twitter really are the kind of people I get on with in every day life.

Would I attend another Stationery Club?
And surprisingly this one is a NO. I have seen all I need to see, experienced all I need to experience and am satisfied at that. I am hanging up my stationery club boots.*

*Just kidding, of course I’ll be at the next one, you muppets. See you then.

RedEaredRabbit

TweetUp

Around the start of 2010 I became properly involved with Twitter. Around 6 months before, I had created an account for the sole purpose of following Bradley Wiggins during the Tour de France and during 2009 I did little with it. I am not sure of how many people I followed or followers I had by the end of the year, but I would guess around 10 and 5 respectively.

In January, due to a mixture of gadget envy and frustration with my turd of a mobile, I decided to buy an iPhone and then, because it was free, installed TweetDeck. This seemingly insignificant step was probably the flap of the butterfly’s wings which caused the typhoon – I now had access to Twitter everywhere I went.

If something funny happened to me or something funny occurred to me pre-Twitter, it would have at most been shared with a couple of people in my immediate vicinity, or often it occured when I had no one to share it with at all. Now I started to Tweet these things as and when they happened, I suppose because I always had an audience.

More importantly, I started to find other interesting people on Twitter and follow them. All of this quickly snowballed and as I exchanged tweets with other users, I started to enjoy feeling part of a virtual community.

I can’t remember exactly how or when I started following Simon Key, but over time he has become one of my favourite people on Twitter. Simon, I should add, co-owns The Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green. Unfortunately, Wood Green is absolutely miles away from the bit of London in which I live and until yesterday I had never even been there but as fate would have it, I found myself only two tube stops away with some spare time, and I thought what the heck, I’ll pop in.

This decision is more significant than it perhaps seems. This is the first time I have actively gone to meet someone I only know through Twitter. I have followed a few people I know and bumped into a couple of people I started following because we share a local but this was different – this was me changing my plans specifically to meet someone with whom the only connection I have is Twitter.

As I entered the book shop, I immediately recognised Simon. This is partly because I have in built Terminator-style face recognition software but also because he is distinct from the crowd with long hair, a super-hero t-shirt and woolly hat. (And partly because he was standing a metre or so from the doorway.)

For this much, I was prepared. However, I also recognised the man with whom he was in conversation. You see, I also followed him on Twitter. This second, unexpected Tweeter, was Greg Stekelman who’s blog I even link to from my own.

Now, I do remember roughly how I started following Greg. As I recall, I was watching MasterChef and someone retweeted one of Greg’s tweets. Greg used to tweet a lot about MasterChef and not in a “Now Dave is chopping an onion.” kind of way. Whatever it was made me laugh out loud (I don’t say lol, I’m not 15) so I checked his other recent tweets. During that episode of MasterChef he had been tweeting something equally funny every few minutes for the entire duration. It was stunning and I was hooked.

Anyway. Back in the bookshop, I was standing in the doorway (like a muppet), watching these two in conversation. I introduced myself, slightly nervously. I had no idea how to do this. “I follow you on Twitter,” I said to Simon. “I’m RedEaredRabbit.” If I contravened the official Twitter etiquette for these situations, he didn’t let it show and he shook my hand and offered me a cup of tea.

While he went off to brew it, I chatted with Greg. Now Greg, I should add, is somewhat famous on Twitter. Not famous like Lady GaGa in that people only follow him because he is famous outside Twitter. Greg is famous on Twitter for what he writes on Twitter. To give you a measure of this, Greg tweeted that he was talking to me and I instantly got 10 new followers. True power.

Greg doesn’t follow me on Twitter, so us meeting led to an interesting social situation – I knew a hell of a lot more about him than he did about me.

Greg : I recently moved.

Me: I know – your neighbours sound like hell.

You may think this would make conversation difficult but actually it was discussing this phenomenon which opened the conversation up. Hands up, I am a complete Twitter novice compared with Greg. Not just in terms of the respective number of people who follow us, but also because I have never had :

In spite of this, it transpired, the way in which Tweeters interact with each other through these seemingly insignificant messages is a genuinely interesting subject to both of us.

While I was talking to Greg, Simon was trying to split time between us and running the shop. When he was free he would always come over and easily drop into the conversation, be it Twitter, books, buses or MasterChef.

I hadn’t just visited the book shop to chat though, I was keen on buying some books and asked Simon if he could recommend some. I didn’t want to guide him too much – I wanted to see what he would recommend given how little he knew about me. If you are ever fortunate enough to visit Simon in the Big Green Bookshop, I recommend you do this. Simon is passionate about books – not at all in a contrived way, but he has a genuine, understated love of what he does. As it turned out, he did a fine job and as he went through the selection he explained a little about each book and why he liked it. Simon’s selection (plus two choices from Greg) is below:

Simon's selection, plus two choices from Greg

I left the shop happy in the knowledge that what I worried could have been a disaster was actually an hour spent meeting two marvelous people. I have no plans to seek out all the other people I interact with on Twitter (Dave Gorman’s next project?) but I hope to bump into some of them at some stage.

I hope by the time I do, I’ll have understood the Twitter etiquette for such things and I hope, as well, they are every bit as nice as @simontkey and @themanwhofell.

RedEaredRabbit