Questions

From Andrew Scott and Olivia Colman See You Taking Creepshots in Interview Magazine (April 4, 2024):

OLIVIA COLMAN: I’ve just done a week of press and Jessie [Buckley] and I were going a bit stir-crazy with the same questions. My lovely PR said, “Should we turn it into a drinking game?” So she gave all the journalists mimosas and said, “If anybody asks the same question, you have to drink.” Then the whole thing was fun.

ANDREW SCOTT: I bet you were hammered.

COLMAN: Yeah. It was brilliant.

SCOTT: And I bet the question that you drank the most to was, “What did you think when you first read the script?”

COLMAN: Oh my god. That’s it. Or, “What drew you to this?”

SCOTT: Yeah, me and Paul [Mescal] had it just recently on All of Us Strangers and that was our big one. But it’s amazing when somebody asks you a really offbeat question. You’re immediately energized by it, because the thing is, you’re never going to say, “Well, I was the seventh choice for this part, and I did this because I’m in a huge amount of debt.”

COLMAN: I have occasionally said that. “I had a huge tax bill, so it came at the right time.”

SCOTT: [Laughs] But it’s a very weird thing to try and speak about how absolutely feral you feel sometimes in that interview room. Do you know what the other one is? “Any funny stories?”

Questions about method and transport

Two questions that (bizarrely) seemed to preoccupy a significant number of people when I was a methods lecturer. Here I share the answers:

What's the difference between method and methodology?
That would be an ecumenical matter.

Is reality real?
Yes

(Father Ted screengrab.)

(A famous trialist and Genstat® user once explained to me that the difference between method and methodology is the same as the difference between transport and transportation.)

How theory-infused forms of evaluation proliferate

In case you’re wondering why we’re blessed with a multitude of terms for evaluations that use theory in some shape or fashion – theory-oriented evaluation, theory-based evaluation, theory-driven evaluation, program theory evaluation, intervening mechanism evaluation, theoretically relevant evaluation research, and program theory-driven evaluation science (Donaldson, 2022, p. 9) – the answer is in an XKCD comic:

References

Donaldson, S. I. (2022). Introduction to Theory-Driven Program Evaluation (2nd ed.). Routledge.

 

Publishing on Amazon

Inspired by nonsense-ridden ChatGPT-authored books appearing on Amazon, I wondered how hard it would be to get my own algorithmic nonsense on there.

So, I’m delighted to announce my new book, Seven Factorial Theatrical Despair, that is 120 pages of all 7! = 5,040 permutations of words in the sentence, “pounds head on table theatrically in despair”, enumerated using the programming language Haskell.

A bargain at only £3.42.

 

This Be The Worse

Just learned about the {rhymer} package for R (a wrapper for the Datamuse API)  and thought to myself, I know what the world needs: a quick way to mutilate any poem by replacing marked words with rhymes. Here’s an example output:

This Be The Worse

They duck you up, your bum and dyad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the schmaltz they had
And add some extra, just for two.

But they were construct up in their turn
By fools in old-style cats and anecdotes,
Who half the time were soppy sunburn
And half at one another’s quotes.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal elf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any eyelids yourself.

(The metre isn’t ideal.)

Code over there.

“Silence was imperative…”

Peter Wright (1987, pp. 70-71) recounts the tale of a delicate MI5 operation to bug an embassy in London:

The house next door was temporarily empty, and A2 obtained access to install a series of microphones. Hugh Winterborn and I led a team of twelve officers from A Branch. Silence was imperative because we knew that the target premises were permanently manned near the party wall. I made a tremendous fuss insisting that everyone remove his shoes to avoid making noise on the bare floorboards. We worked nonstop for four hours in the freezing cold. All the floorboards on the first floor had been raised and I was patiently threading the cables along the void between the joists. After a time one of the leads became tangled on a split joist. Unable to clear the obstruction by hand, I began to ease myself down until one foot was resting on a masonry nail sticking out from one side of a joist. Just as I was inching toward the tangled cable, the nail gave way, and I plunged through the ceiling below. A large section of ceiling crashed fourteen feet to the floor below, reverberating around Portland Place like a wartime bomb. The noise and dust subsided, leaving me wedged tightly up to my waist in the hole in the ceiling. For a moment there was total silence.

“Good thing we removed our shoes,” quipped Winterborn dryly as laughter began to echo around the empty building.

– Peter Wright (1987, pp. 70-71), Spycatcher. Viking Penguin, Inc.

The point of an English degree (Stewart Lee)

‘The universities minister, Michelle Donelan, wants to chop courses where “fewer than 60% of graduates are in professional employment or further study within 15 months of graduating”. She misunderstands the point of studying the arts. […] The point of an English degree is to inspire those who take it with such a love of literature that they spend the next decade serving in bars while trying to complete their Great Work. And if that doesn’t fly, they must become English teachers, handing on the same curse of loving literature to future generations, their collective misery deepening like a coastal shelf, just as our collective understanding of the works grows because of their efforts.’

– Stewart Lee (2022, 3 June). Tory contempt for the arts means we face a second dark age. The Guardian.