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Monday, 1 February 2021

Lore and Data

Tim Harford's magical Christmas specials set in the world of Legend are a treat both for us, his gaming group, and readers of the FL blog. He's run more than half a dozen such games, of which the following have been published here:

"The Holly King"

"The Dean's Folly"

"The Feast of Misrule"

"The Gifts of the Magi"

If you enjoyed those, you might want to check out the fruits of Tim's day job, the latest example of which is his book The Data Detective (in the UK: How To Make The World Add Up). I'm sure we all know somebody who sneers at statistics and imagines that saying, "You can prove anything with numbers," makes them smart. Truth is, in a world awash with deliberate misinformation, that kind of thinking just shows you're a useful idiot for the people who have a vested interest in muddying the waters of evidence and reason.

There's a detailed review in The Wall Street Journal and you can listen to a free chapter of the audiobook version here.

Tim's book provides ten tools for thinking about the world that will help you to see past the background static and the deliberate lies and understand what the real patterns are. I'd put it right alongside Robert H Thouless's Straight & Crooked Thinking -- and that's high praise indeed.


22 comments:

  1. I aways enjoy Tim's radiophonic exploits. It's interesting listening on the drive to work.

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    1. I'm rarely in the car at the right time, Simon, but my wife will occasionally come home and say, "Oh, I heard Tim on the radio." And his Cautionary Tales podcasts are even better than More Or Less, so well worth hunting those down.

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  2. I purchased How To Make The World Add Up a few months ago, Dave. However, it got sucked into my wife's gravitational Christmas present pull (where despite protestations she insists on wrapping up stuff I've purchased) and I haven't had chance to read it yet. Must admit my brain had not automatically linked your Tim Harford RPG references to author. Goes to show that although I read all your posts, the information contained therein doesn't always get processed properly!

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    1. Understandable, Andy. Why should you associate the measured calm and searing rationality of Mr Harford the radio star with the twisted, dark, mysterious imagination on show from Mr Harford the roleplayer?

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    2. And where Brent Spiner fits into all this I can't fathom at all...

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    3. I'm not sure about that myself now. It seemed to make sense at the time.

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    4. Did Tim record an album of tin-pan-alley tunes as well? That could be the connection..

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    5. I read Tim's book over the last few nights, Dave. Excellent, thought provoking stuff. Doesn't seem to need the Amazon reviews though!

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    6. Oops. Got logged out my google account. That comment was mine!

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    7. I think he's very grateful for any reviews he can get, Andy. Especially for the American edition (confusingly titled The Data Detective) which only has 8 reviews on Amazon UK and 10 in the US. So if you do have time for a review, that'd be where to put it.

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    8. Publishers/marketing don't help themselves sometimes! I'll do just that.

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    9. It really is crazy, isn't it? Publishers don't seem to have caught up with the idea that the whole world is connected by the internet now. So Tim will have done lots of interviews about How To Make The World Add Up and his US publishers blithely throw all that momentum away by retitling it for their local market.

      My wife hit a similar mental block this week. Her new book (Ever Rest) is due for publication on June 3rd, and a US magazine was planning to run a review, then they asked, "Is this novel being published in America?" Roz replied, "It'll be worldwide." Them: "Oh, we're only interested if it's specifically published in the US." Anyone can order it from Amazon or B&N or even their high street bookstore, but to publishers there are still all these different territories like on a Diplomacy board!

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    10. Bizarre, although somewhat ironic if there's a misconstrued number at the bottom of it!

      I've noted June 3rd in my (admittedly none too reliable) head diary.

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    11. And if any further proof was needed of an own goal, Dave, I can't actually find The Data Detective on Amazon UK!

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    12. Something comes up with publication date of 14 Feb 2021 by Harford Lobez!

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    13. I find the trick is not to rely on Amazon's own search engine, Andy, but to stick with Google and include "Amazon UK" in the search terms:

      https://www.amazon.co.uk/Data-Detective-Rules-Sense-Statistics/dp/0593084594/

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  3. Thanks, Dave, have done that, although wouldn't let me leave one on Amazon.com for some reason. Perhaps Harford Lobez is Tim's RPG alter ego. :)

    Looking forward to tomorrow's gamebook post.

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    1. We're gaming tonight, Andy, so I'll ask him. I think Amazon might be tightening up review rules -- you can probably leave a review of Data Detective on Amazon UK, and that might get linked to on the Amazon US site, but you can't put one on the US site directly.

      And yet I see lots of self-published novels with more than a thousand 5-star reviews, so I'm pretty sure there is a way to game the system -- but Tim is too honest to ever stoop to that.

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    2. As a bonus, just from a fleeting memory, I think I just got Paul's comment/joke.

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    3. Well, he didn't make a Soong (sic) and dance about it, Andy.

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