Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. 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'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2017 scientific society talks in London blog post

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

[Solved] Old neuroscience event on amusia (being unmusical) at the RSM - anyone know more?

The event was a 'Music and Medicine' student-led academic meeting at the RSM and the details are preserved in this archived copy of diary pages of February 2007 when the event took place. In fact I did hear of it through the psci-com list, I didn't find it when searching as 'amusia' wasn't mentioned in the email to the list.

Thanks to @davemack for pointing me to Prof Lauren Stewart's Goldsmith's research page, seeing info about amusia in her publications list made it clear that it was her name I should be searching for and finding the event on psci-com meant I could tie the timing down for a more productive search in the archives.

Years ago... I think it was before 2010 as I think my mum was still alive... Dad and I went to a really lovely and interesting evening event at the Royal Society of Medicine on Wimpole Street. Pretty sure that's where it was. It was a talk by someone who'd been doing research on amusia (lack of music, really struggling with pitch and melody), with a neuroscience focus. At the end the speaker and another medical person gave a short musical performance - a violin was involved I think but the memories are fading.

The talk was fascinating. The researcher showed us video clips of her research with members of a family in Ireland who were enthusiastic about music. The family included a man who was keen on music like the rest of his family but had always lacked any ability with it. He composed tunes - they were as unmusical as you'd expect but he seemed to derive a lot of pleasure from it.

People born with (congenital) amusia cannot recognise a musical tune and struggle with musical pitch but don't seem to have a problem with pitch in speech, or with prosody (rhythm and emphasis / intonation in speech). It seems to be very specific. People can also acquire amusia following a brain injury.

I don't think this was the researcher who presented (no mention of an Irish family, though I suppose it's possible my memory is incorrect!)
The Genetics of Congenital Amusia (Tone Deafness): A Family-Aggregation Study (2007)
Anyway I'd love to know who gave the presentation and when the event was. As it was probably 2009 or earlier I think the relevant page on the RSM's website has disappeared. Here are the strategies I've used to try and find out more, so they can be discounted.

Google search - restricted by year - no joy, also tried earlier years.

Royal Society of Medicine website search on the Internet Archive - I've crawled backwards through 2009 to 2007 but not found anything yet. Perhaps it was before 2007 (entirely possible) but the website hasn't been captures.

Psci-com mailing list (I thought the talk might have been advertised here, but no) - searched for amusia and music wimpole.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Dion Freeview box from Tesco - I am not a fan

It's been years since I've done a product review on this blog (I don't buy many devices, admittedly) so this is a bit of an outlier I suppose.

About a year ago I bought a Dion Freeview box in the hope that I'd be able to get additional Freeview channels, such as Talking Pictures, some extra +1 channels not available on my current system and also the HD channels. A few weeks ago I swapped the two boxes over.

Since then I have discovered that as I have an old fashioned non-flat cathode-ray tube (CRT) television with one SCART socket and one aerial socket (and that's it) perhaps my options were probably always going to be limited - I don't get any extra channels.

Either the age of the television or the aerial means that it was a waste of money (it wasn't expensive) and I have the same channels that I already have, so I am going to switch back to the old one, perhaps when I've finished watching Pride & Prejudice. 

No extra channels is only mildly annoying, in that nothing's been improved, but there is something more annoying.

Since I swapped the boxes I've been irritated by an almost constant pop up alert on screen asking if I want to search. This appears randomly, but when it starts up it appears every 30 seconds (and stays on screen for 10 seconds). Surely if I do nothing the system should assume I don't want to search and dismiss itself, sadly this doesn't happen.

Online forums suggest doing a 'first installation' but clearly I did that when I installed it a few weeks ago. I've let it check for new channels (sometimes the message is 'LCN has changed') but this has made no difference.

The Dion Freeview box from Tesco is therefore unusable if you want to WATCH television (I often use it to listen to Radio 4 so don't care so much what's happening on the screen then) and so I cannot recommend it.

It is currently interefering with my enjoyment of Colin Firth's Mr Darcy so I'm mightily peeved, hence moved to write a blog post bleating about it.

I very rarely replace a product with a new one if the old one is still working (very glad I kept the old one!) so let this be a lesson to me. Next time I'll do more research :)

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Blog stats for this blog part 8 (27 December 2017)

Every year I post the blog stats for this blog, and this is my eighth year of doing so (previous years at the end). I do it in case other people might be nosey :)

There seems to be a correlation between the number of posts I write on this blog and its visitors / pageviews, apart from an odd blip in December 2016. I don't have a posting schedule, as the title of this blog suggests I literally only post 'Stuff that occurs to me', as and when it occurs. As I blog a lot elsewhere too this site has diminished somewhat.

  • Table 1: Blog posts per year, by year (= how many blog posts have I written each year?)
  • Fig 1: Blogger's 'all time view' for this site
  • Table 2: Blog stats, by month, for 2017 (= how many people visited this blog, per month, this year?)
  • Table 3: Annual and lifetime views of this blog (= how many people visited this blog each year and the overall total?)
  • Fig 2: Google Analytics 'all time view' for this site
  • Fig 3: The most popular posts on this blog, all time, Blogger stats
  • Particular features of this blog
  • All previous annual stats overview posts, by year

Table 1: Blog posts per year, by year

2009 (45)
2010 (77)
2011 (89)
2012 (141)
2013 (141)
2014 (100)
2015 (50)
2016 (40)
2017 (45 including this one)

Fig 1: Blogger stats 'all time view'.

The most interesting thing about the stats for me is always the vast difference between Blogger's pageviews (1st column in Table 1) and Google Analytics' (3rd column in Table 1). This is generally understood to be because Blogger counts every 'hit' including Google's indexing crawlers and not just real people. I've also included the number of people visiting each month (2nd column), to my knowledge Blogger doesn't provide that info. Odd because Blogger 'is' Google. See explanation below for what numbers in brackets or coloured red mean.

Table 2: Blog stats, by month, for 2017
Month              Pageviews (Blogger)      Visitors (Google)         Page views (Google)
January (7) 36,563 6,583 7,508
February (1) 28,887 5,046 5,679
March (3) 27,220 5,055 5,593
April (4) 18,509 3,767 4,275
May (3) 18,409 3,775 4,314
June (0) 13,398 3,523 3,995
July (7) 12,298 2,905 3,430
August (2) 13,271 2,511 2,891
September (1) 10,992 2,336 2,657
October (3) 11,653 2,660 3,019
November (9) 11,409 2,327 2,818
December (5..)   8,679.. 1,602.. 1,831..
Total               202,609..                          42,090..                         46,179..

Table 2 info
Figures in brackets next to the month are the number of blog posts published that month. 

Figures in red are uncorrected because the month hasn't finished yet, this obviously affects the annual total too.

I briefly switched off this blog in Dec 2016 as I seemed to be getting a suspiciously high number of visits from Russia (I assumed bots) and January is still showing unusually high numbers. You can see the December blip in the all-time view from Blogger above (Fig 1).

Table 3: Annual and lifetime views of this blog

Year              Pageviews (Blogger)      Visitors (Google) Page views(Google)
2010 (77) 23,351     9,630*   18,958*
2011 (89) 65,972   22,343   40,263
2012 (141) 187,506   57,040   77,869
2013 (141) 553,064 136,941 164,352
2014 (100) 779,632 199,217 226,419
2015 (50) 498,355 113,129 130,115
2016 (40) 379,613   66,614   77,092
2017 (45) 202,609   42,090   46,179
Lifetime      2,690,102                            657,004                 781,247
                                                                646,005^^              784,105

Table 3 info
Figures in brackets next to the year are the number of blog posts published that year. December is in red because I'm writing this on 27th not 31st so figures are incomplete by 5 days which marginally affects the final totals too.
*I began counting stats on Google Analytics in April 2010. Blogger began its own stats system in July 2010.
^) Count of everything in the column above it (Google Analytics)
^^) lifetime count as given on Google Analytics for whole year (there's a slight disparity)

Fig 2: Google Analytics 'all time view'.

 Popular posts for this blog (for all time)
Fig 3: The most popular posts on this blog, all time, Blogger stats

Features of my blog to take into account
Or, mitigating circumstances / excuses ;)
  • People find my posts almost entirely through search engine results (I don't promote my blog heavily on social media, though I do mention it fairly regularly)
  • The most popular posts here are about how to do something, often on Twitter - the answer to people's question(s) can usually be found within the first paragraph or the title, with the rest of the post containing supplemental information. This means that I have a VERY high bounce rate - people arrive, see the answer, leave. If this were a sales website that would be disastrous but as a largely 'how to' info blog that's OK. 
  • My blog is about many different things and therefore unfocused.
  • I don't have a regular posting schedule and literally post stuff as it occurs to me, which is appropriate given the name of the blog.
  • I now have a dedicated 'howto' blog where I post most of my instructional posts. That's on WordPress and as of 27 Dec 2017 has had 24,384 visitors (27,449 visits). I have several other blogs too (one for stuff near Blackheath, one to collect recipes that weren't too disastrous) not to mention two work blogs - so I am rather spreading myself thinly and this is reflected in fewer posts here and consquently fewer visits/-ors.

Previous posts about this blog's stats

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Why is UCL's School of Pharmacy hosting homeopathy conferences?

The other day I spotted this tweet highlighting that the School of Pharmacy (part of UCL) is to host the Society of Homeopaths' Annual General Meeting (AGM) next April.

Homeopathy seems very much at odds with an academic institution, and particularly one that concerns itself with health and medicine. Obviously the Society of Homeopaths is perfectly entitled to have an AGM but I don't think it's appropriate for it to take place on UCL premises.

UCL did previously cancel a homeopathy event in 2016 that would have taken place at the Institute of Neurology, but after complaints it was moved elsewhere. Apparently it was an erroneous booking and lessons were learned with something put in place to prevent it happening again however it's not clear that those lessons have been shared with other colleges and institutions within UCL.

It looks like UCL's School of Pharmacy also hosted the Homeopathic Medical Association's conference earlier in the year (I missed hearing about this one but here's the conference PDF).

These homeopathy events should go ahead (provided they're legal) but not at universities or similar establishments.

Keep an eye on small batteries in kids' toys this Christmas (and at all times)

Little flat batteries, often known as button batteries, can easily be swallowed by children and cause harm  If you think a child may have swallowed a battery take them immediately to A&E / the Emergency Room. 

"Most button batteries pass through the body and are eliminated in the stool (poo). However, sometimes batteries get “hung up”, and these are the ones that cause problems. ... When a battery is swallowed, it is impossible to know whether it will pass through or get “hung up”.  (Source)

Get the child checked out by a professional (they can do an X-ray to check if a battery's inside).

Flat batteries are not safe either and it's not to do with the batteries leaking, the danger is caused by a tiny electrical current (small enough that the battery won't operate the device, but big enough that it can cause problems inside a child's body).
"Severe tissue damage results from a build up of sodium hydroxide (caustic soda)
as a result of the electrical current discharged from the battery, and not, as
commonly supposed, from leakage from the battery. The sodium hydroxide
causes tissue burns, often in the oesophagus, which can then cause
fistulisation into major blood vessels, resulting in catastrophic haemorrhage.
Even apparently discharged (‘flat’) batteries can still have this effect, and
button batteries pushed into ears or nostrils can also cause serious injuries."
Here's a video illustrating a worst-case scenario, using batteries held between two pieces of ham to represent tissues inside the body. There have been cases of severe damage requiring several surgical procedures and some cases have resulted in the death of a child.

Keep your eyes on your batteries.

Other things to watch out for: toys with a battery compartment that's easy to open (encourage manufacturers to make lockable battery compartments that need to be opened with a screwdriver), plastic packs of batteries with perforated card backing - these are also quite easy to open.

Further reading
Button batteries can kill if swallowed - a post I wrote for the CHI+MED blog in 2016 (our project looked at ways of making medical devices safer)

Family Safety: Button Batteries (Suffolk Trading Standards, writing on Families Online in 2016)

The blog post above was prompted by this tweet -