Friday, 29 May 2009

interesting photos on weburbanist

Via Alex, a page of images on WebUrbanist which look faked but aren't.

More of Ron Mueck's realistic sculptures here.


Have come across an equvalent of Snopes which deals with political things, Factcheck.

Email issue today on 'Did the Obama administration burn soldiers' Bibles?' The answer being the incident broadly did happen, it didn't seem unreasonable, and it was the Bush administration.

film locations

On the way back from Tesco's this evening I saw a film unit truck outside the Buddhist centre on Manor Place, with quite a few folk and stuff around; on my way there there were film unit vans in the compound on the old garage site. When I went past the latter last week the guy sitting at the gate had a Bill logo on his top. It's all go, filming wise. Last night there were a few people hanging around the pub - on my way out I even wondered if the woman there was Kiera, but I didn't stay lng enough to have a proper look, but it did look like something was going on.

barney kessel

Just watching a Julie London documentary which mentioned that Barney Kessel, the guitarist on Cry Me A River, had been very highly rated by George Harrison, though I'd never heard of him. He turns out to have been a prolific session musician (including Elvis - Return to Sender and Can't Help Falling In Love - and the Beach Boys), coming out of the jazz world, and that George did indeed speak highly of him.

Independent obituary: '"Barney Kessel is incredible. He's just amazing . . . Nobody can play guitar like that," said John Lennon. George Harrison agreed. "Barney Kessel is definitely the best guitar player in the world."'

Very detailed obit from Spectropop. Wikipedia.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

tube station births

Woman gives birth at Tube station: A 32-year-old woman has given birth to what is believed to be the first baby boy to be born on the London Underground. Michelle Jenkins, of Barking, went into labour while travelling on the Jubilee Line on Tuesday. Staff at London Bridge station called an ambulance but Ms Jenkins gave birth in the staff room before it arrived. Three doctors assisted Ms Jenkins after being called via the public address system, before she went to hospital. A Transport for London (TfL) spokeswoman said the birth happened just after 1400 BST. The baby is the first boy and the third child to be born on the London Underground network, officials said. Last December, Julia Kowalska became the second person to give birth on the underground. Baby Jennifer was born at 2135 on 19 December. TfL said the only other recorded birth on the underground was in 1924 when Marie Cordery was born at Elephant & Castle.
- BBC, 28 May


From Alan Davey's blog, from Gary Brady originally:

If you receive an email from the 'National Institutes of Health' saying not to eat tinned chopped ham with pork because of swine flu, just ignore it.....

it's SPAM.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

hampton court palace extras

On the way home this evening I noticed a printed sheet on the door of the Hampton Court Palace pub saying they were having a casting call for extras this evening, 6-8, for a scene to be filmed in the pub for a film being made called London Boulevard starring Colin Farrell and Keira Knightley. There is indeed such a film, according to Filmofilia, Metro, Variety.

Here's a photo on Flickr. The pub used to have a website but no longer it seems. It's listed on various pub websites, but no info of value on any I've looked at.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

clement freud

Clement Freud died recently. From the various related articles (including Guardian death report, obituary and funeral report), I learned that Lucian Freud was his brother, and was reminded by Neil Gaiman's blog that he wrote Grimble, which I remember reading and enjoying as a boy, but had forgotten about until then.

free church blogs

David Meredith has a blog, Calvinism and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

John Ross has a blog, Recycled Missionaries.

And of course Iain D Campbell has had a blog for ages, Creideamh, mostly with his Gazette columns to start with.

Monday, 25 May 2009


Story in Private Eye of 20 February of Daily Express journalist only finding out he was being made redundant when he turned up for work and his swipe card wouldn't work to let him in.

Reminds me of another possibly apocryphal tale, which may even have been in the Funny Old World section of Private Eye sometime, of an oriental firm having a fire drill getting everyone out of the building and then their security passes just letting some of them back in, the rest being made redundant.

private eye cartoons

from 23 January:
- picture of long bus queue, caption someone saying 'There's probably no bus'
- two beggars side by side, one young, one in suit, young one saying, 'This government has really increased social mobility and equality. You were a banker, I worked in Zavvi, now we're both tramps'
- one clergyman says to another, 'I find that in a recession people come back to the church - that's the third silver chalice we've had stolen this month'

the time traveller's guide to medieval england

The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England: After The Canterbury Tales this has to be the most entertaining book ever written about the middle ages. Ask me anything you like about 14th-century fashion, etiquette, architecture, armies, law or humour, but henceforth my abiding memory of medieval England will be of Sir John Arundel and his men en route to fight in Ireland in 1337. They repaid the generosity of the prioress who allowed them to shelter in the nunnery by getting drunk, stealing the chalices, raping and abducting the nuns to their waiting ship and then, when a storm blew up, throwing 60 of their captives overboard to "lighten the load". So much for Ye Goode Olde Days.
- Guardian audiobook review by Sue Arnold, Saturday 18 April

right here, right now

Right here, right now: After twenty per cent of conservatives voted for Obama, the Republican party was left in tatters. Oliver Burkeman asks key figures - what next?
- interesting Guardian article, Saturday 18 April

In British politics, the solution to such a muddle might be for a fresh-faced leader - a Blair or a Cameron - to take on his own party, forcing reform on the infighting members. But it's far harder for such a leader to emerge in the US if your party doesn't control the White House, harder still if you're a minority in Congress. "In Britain, political change is always imposed from the top down - half a dozen people who have houses next door to each other in London come to an understanding, win a contest and impose their vision on the party," says the former Bush speech-writer David Frum. "In America, change tends to come from the middle up - from the activists." And the problem with activists is that they tend to prefer passionate commitment to pragmatism. "I call them say-it-louder conservatives," says Frum, in a coffee shop around the corner from the American Enterprise Institute, a neoconservative thinktank where he now has an office. "If people don't like what you're saying, say it louder! Then they'll like it!"

mother goose

We went to the Hackney Empire pantomime again this year - Mother Goose, on New Year's Eve. Left it late to blog, so don't remember much, except that Clive Rowe was excellent again; the cast in general was fine (the romantic leads are always rather a thankless task and hard to make anything of other than dull), the best of them being Tameka Empson as Frightening Freda, who was also in Three Non-Blondes (which I think I only watched once I think), and who was really rather small.

I'll see if I can still find any reviews. Guardian. Child's review from the Guardian. Telegraph. Time Out. Sunday Times. American blogger. British Theatre Guide. Music OMH. The Stage. Clive Rowe interview in Camden New Journal. Evening Standard.

The remind me that the director and writer, Susie McKenna, also played the villain, and did so pretty well. There was quite a bit of chitchat with her and Clive Rowe and also Tony Whittle the Baron, who also seemed an old hand. Clive sings very well, and they also use snippets of proper songs - old and contemporary - very well rather than all specially written. They also remind me that they had a team of children doing some dancing; I remember that one of them was a tiny girl who was so cute that everyone else, especially the older children, must have wondered why they were bothering since everyone would be watching her. I'd also forgotten that Mother Goose is corrupted by wealth then saved.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

bohemian rhapsody cover versions online

A link to cover versions of Bohemian Rhapsody online.

Friday, 22 May 2009

psalm or hymn at osborne house

The Pavilion [at Osborne House] was completed in September 1846 when the royal family moved in. The event was described by Lady Lyttelton, Superintendent of the Royal Children: ' [....] After dinner we rose to drink the Queen's and Prince's health as a *house-warming*, and after it the Prince said very naturally and simply, but seriously, "We have a hymn" (he called it a psalm) "in Germany for such occasions. It begins" - and then he quoted two lines in German which I could not quote right, meaning a prayer to "bless our going out and coming in." It was dry and quaint, being Luther's; but we all perceived that he was feeling it. And truly entering a new house, a new palace, is a solemn thing to do.'

- from the English Heritage guidebook to Osborne House. Of course, Prine Albert was absolutely right, it was a psalm.

Monday, 18 May 2009

football's seven deadly sins

The Guardian this week has supplements on football's seven deadly sins, each primarily made up of many illustrative short stories. Highlights to follow, hopefully.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

scottish sunday express apologises for dunblane survivors story

Scottish Sunday Express apologises for Dunblane survivors story: The Scottish edition of the Sunday Express has apologised for the "terrible offence" it caused by running a front page story alleging survivors of the Dunblane massacre had shamed the memory of dead friends by boasting about drunken nights out on social networking websites.
- Guardian, 23 March

are we dangerously dependent on wikipedia?

Are we dangerously dependent on Wikipedia? The author of a new book says no, and talks about how a site spawned by an Ayn Rand enthusiast became our most popular encyclopedia.
- Salon, 24 March

lego town

Toy story: Never mind the recession - Lego is now so popular that there are 62 little coloured blocks for every person on the planet. Yet only five years ago this family business was on the brink of ruin. Jon Henley reports from the Danish town where it all began
- Guardian, 26 March

man piling twenty-two bricks on his head

Another video via YouTube podcast, of a man in Bangladesh piling 22 bricks on his head to carry them.

home physics experiments

Some interesting home physics experiments videos on YouTube by coolaun; the one I saw, directed to from Best of YouTube podcast, involving cotton reels, a wheel and a ruler.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

mp expenses

Here are some of the highlights of things which have come out so far in the MPs expenses claims stuff, paras from various pages from the BBC site:

Former minister Elliot Morley has been suspended from the Parliamentary Labour Party after claiming £16,000 expenses for a mortgage he had already paid off.

Another Conservative MP, Douglas Hogg, is to repay £2,200 in expenses after admitting the clearing of his moat was "not positively excluded" from a claim as he had said.

Chief Whip Nick Brown has also spoken to Labour MP Fabian Hamilton, who claimed thousands of pounds in second home allowances for his family home in Leeds while listing his mother's property in London as his main residence.

The first casualty of the clampdown was his own Parliamentary aide, Andrew MacKay, who quit his post over what the party said were "unacceptable" expenses claims. He claimed the second home allowance on his London address, while his wife, Tory MP Julie Kirkbride, claimed it for another home. Between them they claimed 98.5% of the total allowance available to them since 2004.

Several Tory frontbenchers have agreed to repay claims - including a £2,000 bill to repair a pipe under a tennis court claimed by Oliver Letwin and £5,000 claimed for gardening costs by Alan Duncan.

Greg Barker, the shadow climate change minister, was reported to have bought a flat with the help of taxpayers' money and sold it after just 27 months at a £320,000 profit.

Meanwhile Michael Ancram, another Tory grandee and the marquess of Lothian who had already agreed to refund a £100 claim for repairing a swimming pool boiler, said he would make no further claims under the second homes allowance.

Among Labour MPs who have agreed to pay back money are Communities Secretary Hazel Blears, who has paid £13,332 in respect of capital gains tax on the sale of her second home.

In other revelations the Telegraph reports that Justice Minister Shahid Malik - who claimed the most expenses of all 646 MPs in 2007 - claimed thousands of pounds in expenses on his second home while renting his main home. The report on Mr Malik suggest he claimed a total of £66,827 in second homes allowances over three years. It also reports he claimed £2,500 for a cinema system, which was later reduced by half by fees office, and £65 for court summons for non payment of council tax.

her family home in Worcestershire, as her "second" home - for which she claimed at least £116,000 in expenses - while claiming her main home was her sister's house in London where she stays during the week. She has also apologised for "mistakenly" claiming £10 for two adult films watched by her husband. Work minister Tony McNulty is also being investigating for claiming up to £14,000 a year for his constituency home where his parents live in Harrow East. He moved out in 2002 to the property he designates his main home - eight miles away in Hammersmith. He says he used the constituency home as a base when working in Harrow. Both say they acted within the rules.

While ministers' claims have dominated recent headlines, the issue first hit the headlines when Tory MP Derek Conway was reprimanded by the Commons standards and privileges committee for overpaying his two sons who he employed as researchers. He was expelled from the party and ordered to repay £13, 161 paid to his younger son Freddie - who was a student in Newcastle during the period he was employed - and £3,757 paid to his son Henry. The case increased scrutiny of the practice of MPs employing their own relatives - they now have to be declared. Tory frontbencher Caroline Spelman was also told to repay £9,600 she paid to a part-time constituency secretary who, it was claimed, had worked mainly as her nanny.

Here's a Q&A on the issue, from early on.

Here's a full list of expenses claim details and what the MPs said about them.

the non-beatle on the cover of abbey road

Paul Cole, man on Beatles' 'Abbey Road' cover, dies
- TCPalm, 15 February 2008:

Paul Cole was in one of the most famous photographs of the 20th century, and yet he wasn't famous.

Cole, a longtime Barefoot Bay resident, died Wednesday in Pensacola at age 96. He is clearly seen in the famous shot of the Beatles walking across London's Abbey Road, used as the front cover of the group's classic 1969 album, "Abbey Road." Over the years, the picture has been reproduced in books, on posters, coffee mugs, T-shirts and hundreds of other places.

The retired salesman is standing on the sidewalk, just behind the Beatles. Gawking at them.

In a 2004 interview with Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers, Cole explained how he came to be there at that precise moment.

On a London vacation with his wife, Cole — then a resident of Deerfield Beach — declined to enter a museum on the north London thoroughfare.

"I told her, 'I've seen enough museums. You go on in, take your time and look around and so on, and I'll just stay out here and see what's going on outside,'" he recalled.

Parked just outside was a black police van. "I like to just start talking with people," Cole said. "I walked out, and that cop was sitting there in that police car. I just started carrying on a conversation with him. I was asking him about all kinds of things, about the city of London and the traffic control, things like that. Passing the time of day."

In the picture, Cole is standing next to the police van.

It was 10 a.m., Aug. 8, 1969. Photographer Iain McMillan was on a stepladder in the middle of the street, photographing the four Beatles as they walked, single-file, across Abbey Road, John Lennon in his famous white suit, Paul McCartney without shoes. The entire shoot lasted 10 minutes.

"I just happened to look up, and I saw those guys walking across the street like a line of ducks," Cole remembered. "A bunch of kooks, I called them, because they were rather radical-looking at that time. You didn't walk around in London barefoot."

About a year later, Cole first noticed the "Abbey Road" album on top of the family record player (his wife was learning to play George Harrison's love song "Something" on the organ). He did a double-take when he eyeballed McMillan's photo.

"I had a new sportcoat on, and I had just gotten new shell-rimmed glasses before I left," he says. "I had to convince the kids that that was me for a while. I told them, 'Get the magnifying glass out, kids, and you'll see it's me.'"

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

what was the mexicans' version of the alamo attack?

What was the Mexicans' version of the Alamo attack?
- interesting though short Straight Dope article on the Alamo.

This is the bulk of it:

For instance, when Mexican forces first arrived at San Antonio on February 23, 1836, the Texans were sleeping it off from a rousing party the night before, and the Alamo (a converted mission) was guarded by only ten men. Rather than move swiftly, though, the Mexican commander dawdled, permitting the Texans to raise the alarm and scramble their forces into position.

As it happened, the defenders were about as disorganized as the Mexicans. They had a clumsy system of dual leadership, with the regular forces commanded by William Travis while the volunteers answered only to Jim Bowie. The Texans had not bothered to store much food or ammunition, and they had nowhere near enough men to defend their fort, a large, irregularly shaped compound whose walls were crumbling in places.

The Mexican troops, for their part, were poorly paid, ill-fed, and haphazardly trained, and had been exhausted by a grueling march over the desert. Even so, morale was reasonably high. The Mexicans with some justice regarded the Texans as murderous barbarians. Indeed, one of the reasons the Texans were so determined to win independence from Mexico in the first place was that the Mexican constitution outlawed slavery, which the Texans favored.

Having lost the advantage of surprise, Santa Anna could have done two things: simply bypass the Alamo altogether, since it was of little strategic value, or wait until his artillery arrived, which would simplify breaching the fort's defenses. He did neither, opting instead for a rash attack instead on March 6--according to rumor, says de la Peña, because Santa Anna had heard that Travis and company were on the verge of surrendering, and he didn't want to win without some battlefield heroics first.

The assault was a nightmare. Advancing on the fort, the Mexicans were ordered to commence firing while still out of range, with the result that they had to reload under the Texans' guns. Scaling ladders were inadequate, and the Mexican soldiers were forced to scrabble over the walls on the backs of their fellows. Once the Mexicans were inside, the battle degenerated into a melee, with soldiers shooting at their comrades as often as at the enemy.

When it was all over, seven captured defenders, including Davy Crockett, were brought before Santa Anna. He ordered them killed, and they were hacked to death with sabres. American losses are variously given as 182, 188, and 253, while the Mexicans lost more than 300, de la Peña says. All in all, it was not a heroic episode for anyone concerned.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

canada tourist video shot in northumbria

Canada tourist video shot in Northumbria • Province with no coastline borrows North Sea beach • Film part of $14m scheme to promote Alberta
- Guardian, 25 April. Ridiculous quotes in defence in these paras:

Ottawa has responded by suggesting that the choice of Northumberland symbolised the fact that "Albertans are a worldly people". Tom Olsen, head of media relations for Canada's prime minister Stephen Harper, said: "There's no attempt to mislead here. The picture used just fitted the mood and tone of what we were trying to do."

His take that the British children were "a symbol of the future" was echoed by Olga Guthrie of Alberta's public affairs bureau, who is managing the campaign. She said: "This represents Albertans' concern for the future of the world. There's no attempt to make people think that the place pictured is Alberta."

'one like a piece of toast, the other like a bible'

Norrie Tomsh has started writing a golf column in the Free Press. Nice line in this week's, in a bit about mowing lawns or golf courses, and the difficulty of doing stripes and straight lines: 'I'd had difficulty cutting two peats the same size, so this was a challenge. My father used to comment: "One like a piece of toast, the other like a bible". It's all about consistency.'

down with the kids extract

There's no escaping it: childbirth is less fun than motor sport, which is why every culture has its signature method for taking your mind off it. In France, the midwives act as if you're the first living creature who ever arrived at a maternity unit in the late stages of labour. ("I am desolated to disturb your lunch, Docteur Égoïste, but zere iz a bipedal mammal in ze waiting room. C'est fou, I know, but it appears she az come 'ere to give birth to 'er young.")

In England, they insist you aren't in labour at all, and should in fact go home directly. The receptionist can maintain this "none shall pass" stance for hours, until your newborn is literally poking its head out, learning its times tables and opining that you are just so embarrassing. Only then will you be admitted to see a midwife, who will gasp: "Oooh, you should have come sooner!"

England has a way of making every birth feel unique and special. Ten minutes after the arrival of our second child, euphoric with relief and gratitude, I gave up our names and personal details to a woman in a starched white uniform who appeared in the delivery room where my wife still lay half-naked. I only became suspicious when the woman asked whether we'd mind awfully if our details were shared with marketing partners carefully selected by a major nappy manufacturer.

It turned out she was a direct marketer: the hospital got a kickback every time some dad on a heavy nitrous comedown fell for her nurse act. (I'm told we were unlucky. It's only in some areas that your baby can be on a junk mail list minutes after its cord is cut. It's a post-cord lottery).

I'll leave you with a postnatal gem from a friend whose newborn needed a routine check. A young man in a white coat entered. "Hello!" he boomed brightly. "I'm a baby doctor!"

"Sorry," said the mother - no doubt wary of marketing shenanigans - "but are you a paediatrician?" The doctor melted with relief. "Thank God!" he sighed. "You might not believe it, but enough people get paediatrician mixed up with paedophile that I've had to give up saying it."
- Chris Cleave, Down with the Kids, Guardian, 25 April

Saturday, 9 May 2009

the devil wears prada

We watched The Devil Wears Prada last night on video (ie hard disk, of course), which I quite enjoyed. David Hepworth watched it when it was on and highlights some of the implausibilities from a magazine insider's point of view.

Friday, 8 May 2009

losing to stay up

"After a discussion with a friend in the pub the other day I was reminded of a story I once heard on a phone-in one Saturday afternoon. While I forget the details I remember hearing about a team who had found themselves in the position where on the last day of the season they needed to lose the game to stay up. Can this be true?" demanded Andrew Law last week.

Let's hand things over to Ciaran Grant: "This put me in mind of when the Irish League decided to split in two in order to form the Irish Premier League during the 1990s. It was decided that the eight best teams would be decided by taking their average league position over the course of two seasons. Roll on the final day of the season in April 1995. Coleraine and Bangor both shared 8th position on average and both had local derbies to play against Ballymena and Ards respectively. Coleraine had the upper hand as they were in 7th position and Bangor were 11th.

"What the IFA hadn't thought of, though, was this: Ards were one point behind Coleraine so if Coleraine failed to win their match and Ards won against Bangor then Ards would move above Coleraine pushing their average down slightly, meaning Bangor would have a better average and it would be them that would go into the new Premier League. And guess what – this is exactly what happened. At half time Ards lead Bangor 1-0 and Coleraine v Ballymena was scoreless. In the second half Ards scored again (to the cheers of the Bangor fans) and ran out 2-0 winners. If I recall correctly Bangor didnt exactly try in the second half. Coleraine and Ballymena ended 0-0 and thus although Bangor lost it was they that stayed in the top flight."
- The Knowledge, 6 May

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Gavin Peacock practises what he preaches in new career

Gavin Peacock practises what he preaches in new career
- Times, 25 April

youtube helps man deliver baby

YouTube helps man deliver baby: An engineer in Cornwall delivered his baby son after watching an instructional video on YouTube. Marc Stephens watched the videos as a precaution when his wife Jo started to feel some discomfort. Four hours later, his wife went into labour and started giving birth before an ambulance could arrive at their home in Redruth. "I Googled how to deliver a baby, watched a few videos and basically swotted up," Mr Stephens told the BBC.
- BBC, 1 May

four in ten people believe in ghosts

Four in ten people believe in ghosts: New research published today by Theos reveals a strong belief in ghosts and the supernatural across the UK. The poll of over 2,000 people, conducted by ComRes on behalf of Theos, shows that 70% of people believe in the human soul, 55% believe in heaven and 53% believe in life after death. Almost four in 10 (39%) of people believe in ghosts, 22% believe in astrology or horoscopes, 27% believe in reincarnation and 15% believe in fortune telling or Tarot, the research reveals. The comparison with the 1950s is especially striking. In 1950, only 10% of the public told Gallup that they believed in ghosts, and just 2% thought they had seen one. In 1951, only 7% of the public said they believed in predicting the future by cards and 6% by stars.
- Theos, 13 April

bus firm employee paid losses of ¥880,000 out of his own pocket

Bus firm employee paid losses of ¥880,000 out of his own pocket: An employee of a public bus company in Komatsushima, Tokushima Prefecture, used his own money to cover a deficit of ¥880,000 at the firm over a three-year period, a city official said Thursday. The man, who has not been identified, worked in the division that sold airline tickets. He said he could not reveal the losses because he was the one who proposed the bus firm enter the airline ticket business, sources said. The man covered the losses out of his own pocket between September 2005 and last July, according to the city of Komatsushima. The man apparently paid between ¥1,000 and ¥30,000 every month during the period. He used his own money to pay the terminal fees of the airlines, because the commission from marketing the airline tickets did not cover the cost, the city said. The man was the only one in charge of the airline ticket agency division, and no one else checked the bills from the airlines, the city said. The city will book ¥880,000 as an extraordinary cost in its 2008 financial statement. "It is unfortunate that this happened. I wish he could have discussed the situation sooner," said an official of the city's transportation division.

- picked up from the current Private Eye, but this link is to the Japan Times story of 6 February from which it was taken

stop worrying about your children

Stop worrying about your children! Kids today are just as safe as they were in the '70s, says "Free-Range Kids" author Lenore Skenazy, and what's really distressing is an alarmist culture that refuses to let them grow up.
- Salon, 4 May

Monday, 4 May 2009

snopes on reader's digest

Rumor Detectives: True Story or Online Hoax? Giant dogs? One-winged airplanes? Death by Pop Rocks? Sounds like a case for
- article on the Mikkelsons in Reader's Digest

subgroup analyses

Another good Bad Science article from Guardian of 25 April, with good section on subgroup analyses:

Interestingly it turns out that you can show significant benefits, using a subgroup analysis, even in a fake trial, where the intervention consists of doing absolutely nothing whatsoever.

Thirty years ago Lee et al published the classic cautionary paper on this topic in the journal Circulation: they recruited 1,073 patients with coronary artery disease, and randomly allocated them to receive either Treatment 1 or Treatment 2. Both treatments were non-existent, because this was simply a simulation of a trial.

They were not disappointed. Overall, as expected, there was no difference in survival between the two groups. But in a subgroup of 397 patients the survival of Treatment 1 patients was significantly different from that of Treatment 2 patients. This was entirely by chance.

You can also find spurious subgroup effects in real trials, if you do an analysis that's foolish enough. Close analysis of the ECST trial found that the efficacy of a procedure called endarterectomy depended on which day of the week you were born on. Base your clinical decisions on that: I dare you.

Furthermore there is a beautiful, almost linear relationship in this trial's results between month of birth and clinical outcome: patients born in May and June show a huge benefit, then as you move ahead through the calendar, there is less and less effect, until by March it starts to seem almost harmful. If this had been a biologically plausible variable, like age, this subgroup analysis would have been very hard to ignore.

It goes on. The ISIS-2 trial compared the benefits of aspirin against placebo during a heart attack. Aspirin improves outcomes, but a mischievous subgroup analysis revealed that it is not effective in patients born under the star signs of Libra and Gemini.

The CCSG trial found that aspirin was effective in preventing stroke and death in men but not in women, and as a result, women were undertreated for a decade, until further trials and overviews showed a benefit.

rat records and chalked tyres

In what was possibly the first useful thing I've ever picked up from one of the Southwark Council magazines, I've learned about Rat Records in Camberwell, which sounds rather good and which I shall try to visit before too long.

Their directions to the shop include this interesting fact in their car option: 'Drive and park free in Somerfields supermarket for up to one hour (they chalk your tires with times and will clamp or fine for staying over an hour), good parking possibilities on Camberwell Station Road.' I've never heard of the chalk method before, but it makes sense.

It also comes with two blogs - Philippe's and (the owner) Tom's.

richard bryant

Our wander through the South Bank and Covent Garden on Saturday took us via Somerset House, where we caught the end of the extended exhibition of Richard Bryant photos of London. Print images are here at Somersethouseprints, but for fear they will be superseded, here's what appears to be an official permanent site.

latest ansible extracts

MARGARET ATWOOD returns to a strangely familiar position while chatting to the _New York Times_: 'Her nightmarish, futuristic scenarios have caused some of her books to be tagged as science fiction, though she thinks that genre doesn't quite fit -- "since there aren't aliens and spaceships and the other usual things," she said.' [MF] Tut, Ms Atwood, you forgot to mention the talking squid in outer space.

L. RON HUBBARD fans who recall bitter disputes and lawsuits over the carefully documented biographical revelations in Russell Miller's _Bare-Faced Messiah_ will be surprised to learn that 'the basic outline of L. Ron Hubbard's life is not contested.' All negativity -- including many a judicial condemnation -- has seemingly been excluded from _Scientology_ ed. James R. Lewis, published by the Oxford! University! Press!

TERRY PRATCHETT unveiled street signs on a new housing estate in Wincanton, Somerset, which by popular local vote had been named for streets in his Discworld city of Ankh-Morpork: Treacle Mine Road and Peach Pie Street. 'Personally I'd pay good money to live somewhere called Treacle Mine Road.' (_Telegraph_ and _Metro_, 5 and 6 April) [JB]

_Lloyd Wood_ on _A261_: '1. My local Waterstone's has a big sign up at the back of the shop saying "Si-Fi". The shape of things to come? 2. Michael Swanwick must have gone to the Tate Modern early in the installation's life. I went late, and all that was left of the trade paperbacks were a few limp foreign-language copies lying, scattered sparsely, on empty metal bunk frames. All the English books had been nicked. When I try to imagine a shelter from an endless rain accompanied by bad SF paperbacks, the South Bank Book Market just along the Thames under Waterloo bridge springs immediately to mind. Isn't commerce supposed to imitate art, not the other way around?'

AS OTHERS SEE JGB: 'The prescience of Mr. Ballard's work and its harsh conflation of the present and the future often resulted in comparisons to writers like Huxley and Orwell. "His fabulistic style led people to review his work as science fiction," said Robert Weil, Mr. Ballard's American editor at Norton. "But that's like calling 'Brave New World' science fiction, or '1984.'"' (Bruce Weber, _New York Times_, 21 April) [MF] And of course no one would ever do that.

- May Ansible

great wall of china much longer than previously thought

Great Wall of China much longer than previously thought: The latest survey of the Great Wall of China has discovered that the monument is much longer than previously estimated.
- Telegraph, 20 April.

Equivalent story from the Independent on 21 April.

implausibility of modern physics

Interesting para from Melvyn Bragg's email yesterday following the In Our Time on the vacuum of space:

At lunch with one of my oldest and best friends, I remembered that I’d said after the programme “after all that you’ve said, it makes faith seem quite plausible”. Because the basics of modern physics is so ridiculously implausible, ie: unproveable, untrackable, unknowable, it does make the idea that a god (in whom Darwin believed and, of course, Newton) created what’s what.

pronunciation poems

Poems which demonstrate complications of ordinary English pronunciation, from World Wide Words.

photo of elephant tower in fog

Nice photo of tower block in fog from our estate. Here are more of Jonah Jones's photos from England (here's his official/professional site).

Friday, 1 May 2009

bob reviews on word forum

Via the Word email:
Mark Ellen on seeing Bob Dylan at the O2;
Fraser Lewry on seeing him at the Roundhouse;
David Hepworth on what is a review anyway.

The Word forum also has a much higher percentage of comments than usual worth reading.

cleaning up paris

According to Andrew Collins in an article about Amelie in the new Radio Times, the director was 'pilloried for creating an idealised version of the city by removing all traces of litter, graffiti and dog poo from locations during filming and in post-production.' The city being Paris, of course.