The Full Briggs?

Stolen from the site
Stolen from the site

Our friend Joseph Moore at Yard Sale of the Mind, a site surely on everybody’s list already, whose photograph appears atop this post, wrote

It doesn’t get much more civilized than that! I’d say fine coffee, a tasty pastry and a good book — and a nice hat (1)- represent an apex of culture just below a Latin High Mass in a great cathedral.

Hear him! Everybody who is anybody is reading Uncertainty: The Soul of Modeling, Probability & Statistics. Some (me) are even saying it makes the ideal Christmas gift.

The (1) represented a footnote, which was this:

Nearly had the Full Briggs going: I’d put on a tie, grabbed a jacket and a hat, because the next thing I’d be doing after the race was gathering up the rest of the family and heading off to Mass, and I need the hat to keep my bald head warm. The Full Briggs, as I understand it (and, being a Californian, I may be incapable of truly appreciating it) is for grown men to wear a suit, tie and hat as default clothing, only deigning to dress otherwise for specific purposes, such as if one were a professional wrestler or astronaut or something. As a native Californian who grew up amidst surfers and welders, my reaction to this could be summed as: Whoa. Dude. Those noir shamuses do look pretty natty, I must confess.

This is a fair, but incomplete, representation of The Full Briggs. Suits are recommended, yes; but it’s not suits per se, but the jacks-slacks-tie-hat combo that provides balance and luster to a gentleman’s existence. Ties are not de rigueur unless in a suit, but they’re highly recommended especially when the temperatures drops below 90 F. (That’s not a misprint: 90 F, 32 C.)

Men, can you imagine the figure you’d cut in a comfortable jacket, devil-may-care tie, loosely knotted, even old, even wrinkled pants and shoes (the species pants do not include jeans, and shoes do not mean sneakers), a battered fedora or wool cap, sitting in a café or on a park bench reading the Book of the Year? Your wives, if you have them, will have to stand guard over you to keep the philosophy groupies at bay. And if you’re not married, well, here is the ultimate mate bait.

Beats a cute dog. And you don’t have clean up after Uncertainty.

Incidentally, you don’t have to sit. Unlike some ponderous philosophical tomes, Uncertainty was designed to be light, refreshing, short—and true. This means you can, and should, carry it with you wherever you go. Being seen carrying it is the surest path to advancement.

If somebody asks you what’s so special about the book, you can quip, “Die p-value, die die die” (the title of one section). Nothing beats a conversation about these undead scourges of statistics. Or you can say “Everybody believes hypothesis tests prove cause, even when they say they don’t believe it; if they really didn’t believe it, they’d never use another hypothesis test for the rest of their lives.”

And there are many more possibilities. Too many to list! Do what Joseph did. Do The Full Briggs!


  1. Gary

    While I enjoyed and learned from Uncertainty, it’s not light. Weighty is more like it, but not in a burdensome way. If you had taken my suggestion of including some statistics-mocking cartoons, then it would have been at least a bit lighter.

    I have another idea (which you probably [based on premises related to the previous point] also will reject … but maybe not) — this time for promotion. How about asking readers to send you photographs of the book (with or without the reader) posed in famous places? A Where in the World has This Book Been? travelog. Uncertainty at the Eiffel Tower; Uncertainty at Trump Tower (heh); Uncertainty at the NYTimes building; Uncertainty at the U.S. Capitol building. You get the idea. See, more lightness for a serious subject. It can’t hurt.

  2. There are books one can read in bed, awaiting sleep; other require a cup of coffee, a pencil, and a upright sitting position. “Uncertainty” falls into the latter class. Long-winded way of admitting I’m only a couple chapters in so far. But finding it good!

    One thing I didn’t go into it expecting but am very grateful for: a discussion of how any talk of uncertainty presupposes truth. Many years ago, I wrote my senior college thesis on this very idea, in the garbled & muddleheaded language of a college senior, to no acclaim whatsoever. It seemed, and still seems, to me to be THE issue: do we take Descartes and his spawn seriously? Or do we call out their adolescent caterwauling for what it is – petulant pouting that, if a man can’t be completely certain of all things all the time like with math, we don’t want to play anymore! If we discover that the round tower we saw at a distance turns out to be a square tower when we get close, why, the entire underpinnings of all knowledge and philosophy collapse into a sucking vortex of death (a technical term covering all of modern philosophy).

    Anyway, sometimes I get lonely, thinking that those most committed to extreme actions are those also most committed to the idea that there is no truth to act upon. Nice to know somebody else is willing to man the breach.

  3. JH

    <blockquote?Do The Full Briggs!
    What a horrifying thought! Briggs would be wise not to question me why I say so.

  4. Jerry

    So far, the book is quite good! I’m very impressed. Nice job, Briggs!

    I’m reading it now, on a lazy Saturday morning, laying on the floor in my a t-shirt and jeans. No tie.

  5. Joseph Potter

    Briggs, I ordered my hardcover copy and full price. I know I will enjoy the book and I might even learn a thing or three. But at some point in time, I want a Kindle copy because that is how I refer quickly to books I have read. But the Kindle version is a little pricey after paying for the hard cover.

    Oh well.

    Review to come in a few weeks. ~ Joseph

  6. Yawrate

    Your book is not just a logical refutation of current statistics but a philosophical treatment of why the old approach is misleading and even dangerous.

    Since your book is the official start of the revolution in statistics away from the p-value, it would be especially valuable to make available signed copies that our grand kids could inherit.

  7. Morgan

    Received the book over the summer; enjoyed reading and enjoy re-perusing it. The re-perusing is, I think, the mark of a book with a certain type of goodness. The kind that comes from implying more than the first reading imparts.

    Also, I have noticed that my wife is more approving (if not apparently more attentive) when I dress like a man instead of an old child. I may even get a hat one day.

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