Archive for June 22, 2009

Dating terms for Cricket fans

Posted in Cricket, Uncategorized with tags , on June 22, 2009 by telescoper

Not long ago I was having a chat with an American friend of mine and I happened to mention to him that I’d never really understood how various expressions derived from baseball apply to dating. I’ve heard, in movies, phrases like “I only got to first base” but not knowing much about baseball -or dating, for that matter, although I am, as you all know, extremely dated – I never really knew what they meant. Now I do, of course, because he spelled them out to me, but I’ll spare my innocent readers the graphic details…

Anyway, I got to wondering about what it would be like if we British used cricketing expressions in this context in the same way as our American cousins do with those from baseball.

Some would work fairly well, of course. I think  leg bye has an obvious connotation for anyone who strays down the legside. I’m sure we’ve all also been in situations where we might have wanted to run out or even perhaps retire hurt. However, the mind boggles at what might have to go wrong in order for you to have to declare a wide or a no ball;  the latter may well involve a bouncer.  An outside edge would be an unfortunate occurrence, and it may have the same result as being stumped.

The presence of a third man is probably a rarity for most people on a date, but perhaps I’m just making a silly point there. Generally speaking, a fine leg is greatly appreciated, and a long leg would be a pretty good alternative. I’m not myself sure about short leg – let alone a square leg – but whatever floats your bat boat.

Cover or extra cover is usually recommended these days but, even then, there’s a risk of one or more slips. Things would have to go very badly wrong, however,  for there to be a risk of a leg-break. A late cut sounds too painful to contemplate and most would be satisfied with a pull if there was no alternative. I’ve always been partial to a quick single, and would even jump at the chance of a full toss, but most would prefer to make it through to a complete innings which probably involves finding one or more boundaries.

Phew! I’m glad I got all the way to the end without making a corny joke about bowling a maiden over

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First Digits and Electoral Fraud in Iran

Posted in Bad Statistics with tags , , on June 22, 2009 by telescoper

An interesting issue has arisen recently about the possibility that the counting of the recent hotly contested Iranian election results might have been fraudulent. I mention it here because it involves  Benford’s Law – otherwise known as the First Digit Phenomenon – which I’ve blogged about before.

Apparently what started this off was a post on the ArXiv by the cosmologist Boudewijn Roukema, but I first heard about it myself via a pingback from another wordpress blog.  The same blogger has written a subsequent analysis here.

I’m not going to go into this in more detail here: the others involved have an enormous headstart and in any case I wouldn’t want to try to steal their thunder.  Suffice to say that there is at least a suspicion that the distribution of first digits in the published results is more uniform than would be expected by chance, given the that the general behaviour under Benford’s Law is to have more digits beginning with the digit “1” than any other. This apparently paradoxical result is quite easily explained. It also provides a way to check for fraud in, for example, tax returns.  How it applies to election results is, however, not so clear and the analysis is a bit controversial.

I’m sure some of you out there will have time to look at this in more detail so I encourage you to do so…

 

Oh. The story is gathering momentum elsewhere too. See here.

Mabel’s Dream

Posted in Biographical, Jazz with tags , , , on June 22, 2009 by telescoper

I could attempt to make a cheesy Radio 2 kind of link between my previous post and this one, along the lines of “From one dream to another..” but I don’t think I’ll bother.

Years ago my mum told me that she heard the tune Mabel’s Dream played on the piano by a friend of the family by the name of Johnny Handle. Best known as a folk musician (and founder member of a well-known band called The High Level Ranters) he is also a music teacher and musicologist with a wide range of interests in music.  I read somewhere that this lovely tune was originally written by Jelly Roll Morton and performed by him on solo piano, but I’ve never managed to locate a solo version. However, every time I try looking for it (which I did this evening) I seem to come across something really nice. Today was no exception.

By far the most famous recording of Mabel’s Dream was made by King Oliver and his Creole Jazz Band in Chicago in 1923. This was the band that the young Louis Armstrong belonged to before going on to make the classic Hot Fives and Hot Sevens, one of which I posted a bit ago. It’s interesting how different the earlier band sounds:  with two cornets (King Oliver and Louis Armstrong), clarinet (Johnny Dodds), and trombone (Honore Dutrey) playing  together virtually all the time except for short improvised solo breaks. King Oliver usually played lead cornet, at least in their earlier recordings, with Louis Armstrong playing a decorative counterpoint around him rather like a clarinettist might. Later on, they swapped leads freely and completely intuitively producing a sound that was entirely unique.

The ensemble playing is intricate, but the band had no written music preferring to work exclusively from “head” arrangements. Their music is consistently delightful to listen to, even though the recordings are very low-fi, with a succession of marchy themes that makes it impossible not to want to tap your feet when you listen to them. You can find their version of Mabel’s Dream here.

Over time, this classic type of polyphonic Jazz- derived from its New Orleans roots – gradually morphed  into musical form dominated by much simpler arrangements and a succession of virtuoso solos. This change was also reflected in the differing fortunes of Louis Armstrong and King Oliver. The former went on to become an international celebrity, while the latter lost all his savings when his bank went bust during the Wall Street Crash. He ended his days working as a janitor, and died in poverty in a dingy rooming house in Savannah, Georgia in 1938.

When the traditional Jazz revival happened after the Second Wold War, many fans turned against the Hot Sevens because they weren’t genuine “Noo Awlins” meaning that they hankered after music that was made more collectively and had less emphasis on the soloists. Across Europe in particular, many bands tried to recreate the sound of the earlier era of American Jazz, with varying degrees of success. 

Looking around for a version of Mabel’s Dream, I came across the following clip from a French band called The High Society Jazz Band which I think is just gorgeous. The recording was made at a live performance in 1960, at the height of the “trad” revival. The lineup of the band is just like King Oliver’s many years earlier, complete with the front line of two cornets, clarinet and trombone as well as piano, drums, banjo and sousaphone. Mostly it’s a deliberate note-for-note copy of the King Oliver version, but at a slightly slower tempo. Normally I don’t really go for deliberate copies like this, even if they’re meant as a tribute, but any two cornettists willing and able to copy Louis Armstrong and King Oliver deserve the greatest respect! Hats off , then, to Pierre Merlin and Claude Rabanit (two names quite new to me) for doing such a great job. In fact, I also like Pierre Atlan’s take on Johnny Dodd’s clarinet breaks, and the trombonist (Mowgli Jospin) deserves a mention for his name alone!