Mis establos!!!

None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained). Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

I work on the EPSRC-funded @CHI_MED project; all views are my own. I used to work at Diabetes UK (until 22 June 2012) as a Science Information Officer (effectively a science-specialist librarian but not quite a clinical librarian). Before that it was ScienceLine and back in the mists of time it was lipid chemistry & neuroscience.

Contact: @JoBrodie or reconfigure this email address me.meeeee @ gmail.com (replace me and meeeee with obvious letters, eg... jo.brodie@ etc).

Oh OK then it's jo dot brodie at gmail dot com

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Randall Munroe of XKCD is doing two talks in London in early November

I was playing on the 'Interesting Talks in London' website last night and spotted that Randall Munroe's doing a talk at the Royal Institution on 5 November.

This surprised me so much (because it seems like the sort of thing everyone I follow on Twitter would already have shared) that I searched on Twitter to find the mentions of it that I must have missed. I didn't find anything for that talk but discovered that he's doing another one on the 6th of November - possibly there are more to be found.

5 November - Ri - Royal Institution
6 November - Union Chapel / Intelligence Squared

Cartoon showing a man pulling a lever and being shocked - cartoon then shows 'normal' person who decides not to pull the lever again, contrasted witha  scientist who wonders if it happens every time
The Difference

What if? Serious scientific answers to absurd hypothetical questions
Wednesday November 5, 2014 @ 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm | Royal Institution
21 Albemarle Street, Mayfair, London W1S 4BS
020 7409 2992 / events@ri.ac.uk
What would happen if the Earth’s rotation were sped up until a day only lasted one second? How far would a tungsten countertop descend if I dropped it into the Sun? Has humanity produced enough paint to cover the entire land area of the Earth?

Randall Munroe has been answering absurd questions with serious scientific answers on his website and now is bringing the best together in this talk.

His book ‘What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions’ will be published 2 September. Get your book and ticket to the event for the special price of £20.

Randall Munroe on Answering the Unanswerable
Duty calls

Thursday November 6 2014 @ 7pm | Union Chapel, Islington
Union Chapel, Compton Avenue, London, N1 2XD

What would happen if you hit a baseball moving at 90% of the speed of light?

How fast can you hit a speed bump while driving and live?

If there was a robot apocalypse, how long would humanity last?

These are the kind of questions that people ask Randall Munroe. A former NASA roboticist, Munroe is the creator of the webcomic phenomenon XKCD. Tens of millions of followers visit XKCD every week to view Munroe’s cartoons of stick-like figures musing on science, technology, language, and love. The website was chosen by Wired as one of the 20 key influences of the last 20 years alongside Steve Jobs and online dating.

Munroe attempts to answer his fans’ many questions on his What If? blog using computer simulations, declassified military research memos, differential equations, nuclear reactor operators – and cartoons. His answers are masterpieces of clarity and wit, and often predict the complete annihilation of humankind, or at least a really big explosion.

Munroe has now published a book, What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, which contains new never-before-answered questions, along with updated versions of the most popular answers from the XKCD website. The book has just been launched in the US and the UK where it soared straight to number 1 on the bestseller lists, selling nearly twice as many copies as its nearest rival.

On November 6th, on a rare flying visit to London, Munroe will be appearing on the Intelligence Squared stage where he will answer the questions you probably never thought to ask.

Don’t miss your chance to hear him and get a copy of the book signed by the XKCD creator in person.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Sharing a link to a tweet may now notify that person, some suggested workarounds

by @JoBrodie, brodiesnotes.blogspot.com (this is an update of an earlier post)

Recently I was surprised to find a tweet in my notifications page that didn't @-mention me, it got there because the tweeter had included the link of an earlier tweet that I'd sent.

I use desktop Twitter (Twitter.com) and Echofon on iPhone and have only experienced this notification on the desktop version. It seems that others have also been experiencing it for the last few weeks and it may be something that Twitter is rolling out to everyone.

What is it?
If you include in your tweet an address link that looks like this
then the person whose name is in bold may well hear about it, on their notifications page / tab.

Why is this of interest or concern to anyone?
People have previously used the method of including a tweet's address to draw attention to a tweet's content indirectly without notifying the person. When this is done to point to something that someone's said, covertly, it is sometimes known as subtweeting (the term "subtweeting" covers a range of Twitter behaviours though).

What's changed?
Previously no-one would be notified if this happened, now they will. Of course people have always been able to search your tweets, if they're public, and see what you've written anyway but it wasn't brought to their attention ('surfaced') in quite the same. 

What can be done?
Firstly be aware that sharing tweet URLs now seems to be equivalent to @-mentioning them. Whether or not this is a good way of including people in a conversation or of just annoying them will depend on the circumstances but best to know that they may see it.

Assuming you want to 'subtweet' covertly then the goal is to share the URL without triggering a notification.

Below are suggestions that I think will let you send a tweet without flagging it up. Remember though that if your tweets are public the person you're 'quoting' can always see your tweets (even if you've blocked them) so this isn't a foolproof method to let anyone snark with impunity.

Some methods are a little bit fiddly. To be honest if you want to be that secretive it's probably best to email people! But this post isn't really about the practical, more about the feasible - I'm interested more in the changing ways in which the technology behind Twitter works. 

Sneaky workarounds

1. Take a screenshot
A picture of the link or the tweet won't trigger the notification.

2. Break the address
Twitter treats web addresses (and hashtags) as clickable things - it recognises that a string of words is a web address and automatically turns it blue / underlines it, makes it clickable and makes it point to the relevant address. Just stick some characters in the link to stop this from happening - make sure that the person to whom you're sending the tweet knows how to mend it again (or the link won't work!).

For example http://www.google^^^.co^^.uk will not be recognised as http://www.google.co.uk 

3. Send it by DM
Although Twitter generally doesn't let you send many links via DM it does let tweet links go through fine. (But of course you can actually send any link by DM if you break it, as outlined in 2).

4. Use DoNotLink.com
This hides the URL and means that it probably doesn't currently trigger the notification (I've tried it and it doesn't, but not tested it to destruction, and Twitter is forever tweaking things). Incidentally you can cloak any URL this way so, for example, if you want to share the link of Widget.com's page without flagging this up to Widget Co (if they have a Twitter search running on 'widget' they'd come across your tweet) you can use this.

Note that other URL shorteners (bitly, is.gd, t.co etc) fail on this front. They won't hide the link for anyone searching, though I don't know if they will or won't trigger the notification.

5. Put the tweet you want to share in a Twitlonger post (but not in the first line).
Twitlonger lets you write more of a blog post than a tweet (you just log in by authorising it to interact with your Twitter account and start writing). It then posts just the first 120 or so of your post and adds a link so that people can click and go and read the post on the Twitlonger site. If you ensure that the link you want to share is placed after 120 or so characters it won't appear in the autoposted tweet and so can't trigger anything.

6. Share the minimum info needed to recreate the tweet
This is potentially risky because you'd have to include the person's name and if they have a search for that they'll see it immediately (whether or not this method triggers a particular 'your link has been mentioned' notification - I've not tried it and I don't think it does but not certain). If you and the person know who you are talking about you only need to share the link's string of digits to recreate the link.

All tweet addresses have the same format:
http://twitter.com / NAME / status / NUMBER
- if you know the NAME and the NUMBER you can recreate any link from scratch.

For my tweet above you only need JoBrodie and 514147218799222784 to recreate the full link.

Stock photos - I wonder what future 'archaeologists' will make of them

A couple of weeks ago I wondered in a few tweets the following thoughts...
"Is there any academic literature on stock photos? I'm aware of amusing curations (women laughing alone with salad etc) but also curious about the interesting linguistic thingmes it brings up when you search for a word or phrase and it brings up unexpected stuff. I always find myself wondering about any future info-archaeologists and what they might make of how we see things / ourselves, through stock images ;)"
Flickr picture credits: Left: Kidney with 'omnions' by duncan, Middle: kidney medium by Yersinia, Right: Kidney stones by Trevor Blake
Previously, I wrote about this sort of thing in terms of a picture representing an idea (or more literally a word) and how this had sparked some creative fun at work...
"Years ago I helped the then editor of our research magazine (Research Matters, from Diabetes UK) find some illustrative images to go with short summaries of our various bits of research. I remember in particular looking for things that conveyed 'kidneys' to match the section on our kidney research.

There are some standard-issue visual tropes for kidneys, including pictures of actual kidneys (either photographs or drawings, including the urinary system), kidney-shaped metal dishes, kidney beans and even, if you're so minded, steak and kidney pies.

But the concept of kidneys can also be put across by images of clear water - after all the job of the kidneys is to filter and clean blood, and conserve things that the body wants to keep. Even the concept of a fuse might be used in relation to the role the kidneys play in blood pressure and how this can damage them. You might even get away with 'balance' in that our kidneys keep everything in order.

I found that being in the role of someone who picks the pics made me think much more laterally about images in general, which I'm sure is all to the good."
Source: Building the picture pipeline - free images for use in healthcare and medical research #scicomm #nhssm (Sunday, 20 May 2012)
Picking up on the last point there it also crossed my mind that selecting images for an article (and thinking laterally about words, phrases and what the images say) is a teeny, tiny bit like being a film music composer, in the sense that you're 'writing to text' (as opposed to 'writing to picture' as in film) and can choose to use a straightforward image that's clearly aligned to the text (perhaps equivalent of using happy music in a happy scene, or sad music in a sad scene) or selecting something a little more obscure to highlight an aspect of the text that's perhaps not explicit.

Here's a lovely example of a piece of music matching something less obvious in the scene (and perhaps making it more obvious to the audience) -
"One of the classic examples of this kind of [film music] writing is found in David Raksin's score to Force of Evil discussed in some detail in chapter 3. In the final scene the main character, Joe (John Garfield), is seen running in the street, then along a great stone wall and down a huge flight of stairs. Yet the music here is not "running" music -- Raksin has scored the emotional rather than the physical character of the scene. Joe has been running, figuratively, throughout the film; it is only now, as he begins the search for his dead brother's body, that he finds any sort of quietude. Raksin reflects this psychological point in his slow music for this sequence."
Source: Roy A Prendergast The Aesthetics of Film Music (mystery online PDF)
Further reading
I like the genre of reframing of pictures, in the contextual 'caption competition' sense rather than actual frames. Here are a couple of examples I've noticed recently that have amused me.

44 Medieval beasts that cannot even handle it right now Buzzfeed (28 August 2014)

“We’re Fine Here, How Are You?” Normal Moments In Art History Where No One Is About To Get Murdered The Toast (16 June 2014) - features art nudes and so, depending on your workplace, this one might not be safe for work.

Friday, 26 September 2014

I keep seeing our sofa's upholstery fabric on television programmes - it's "Jacobean tapestry fabric"

Here's a picture of our sofa's upholstery fabric.

Mystery fabric 

Over the last few years I've been noticing it in television programmes such as Jeeves and Wooster, Sherlock Holmes (with Jeremy Brett and co) and I think also on Foyle. Possibly it's an ITV / Granada / ITV3 thing. I've been trying to find out what it is.
Here's what looks like an extremely similar pattern on a chair that Edward Hardwicke's sitting on (as Dr Watson), episode 'The Priory School'.

It's the same fabric isn't it? 

I have now found out what it's called, from a fabric supplier - "Jacobean Tapestry Fabric, Teastain". I feel I can rest easy now ;)

Illustrative picture showing the pattern pinched from their website follows...

Here is a clipped bit of an image of some curtains

Monday, 15 September 2014

For people who work in public health / health & social care and who are also cyclists

Below is an email sent to members of CHAIN (Contact, Help, Advice and Information Network for people working in health and social care which includes NHS but also lots of other things) announcing the creation of a new special interest group for public health folk who are interested in cycling.

If this sounds like your thing contact CHAIN (details below) and see if it is :)

They're also on Twitter - @CHAIN_Network

I discovered CHAIN several years ago through reading an earlier edition of Trisha Greenhalgh's 'How to read a paper' book.

Addition: 16 September 2014
There is a Cycling and Society mailing list on Jiscmail and just this week there was the Cycling & Society annual symposium (#cssncl).

Cycling for Health & Wellbeing - New Special Interest Group launched (target group: public health)

On 4th September, (which was Cycle to Work Day in the UK), we launched a new special interest group focusing on cycling as a means of promoting health and well-being. The aim of the group is to enable those of us who are enthusiastic about the potential of cycling to contribute to health and well-being to share relevant experience, resources and intelligence. It will also create the possibility of members collaborating on projects or bids for funding relevant research.

As a CHAIN member who has indicated your interest in Public Health, you are invited to join the new sub-group. Should you wish to do so, simply reply to this message with the words YES PLEASE.

We are also keen to identify several people who would be willing to contribute their enthusiasm in a small way to the new special interest group. This is not demanding, but would simply involve keeping an eye on the topic and alerting us to relevant developments or opportunities that you come across. We will use this information to circulate targeted messages as appropriate. Anyone interested in the possibility of helping the new special interest group in this way should e-mail: david.evans@chain-network.org.uk to arrange a phone conversation.

We look forward to welcoming many recipients of this message into the new special interest group, and to supporting a vibrant and hopefully valuable new component within the wider CHAIN network.

Best regards,

The CHAIN Team

PS. By all means share this message with any of your colleagues or students whom you think may be interested. Those who are not already members of CHAIN are welcome to join, and if they contact us at enquiries@chain-network.org.uk we will send them the appropriate link. Thanks!


CHAIN Manager

CHAIN - Contact, Help, Advice and Information Network – is an online international network for people working in health and social care. For more information on CHAIN and joining the network please visit website: http://chain.ulcc.ac.uk/chain/index.html

Follow CHAIN on Twitter: @CHAIN_Network ; Find us on Facebook; Connect with CHAIN on LinkedIn