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 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Sunday, 31 May 2020

It's probably easier in London - appearance of delivery slots on supermarkets' websites

I wrote a blog post last week (you're welcome to republish it, or strip it for parts) for people who preferred to stay at home but who didn't fall into the Priority List on supermarkets. Basically people who want deliveries but will struggle to get them.

Deliveroo and UberEats don't just deliver cooked takeaway meals, they will also bring groceries from convenience stores and Deliveroo in particular will bring a range of groceries from Co-op and M&S. There are also lots of local shops offering home deliveries, plenty of food box schemes from local or national suppliers and even the supermarkets themselves are now offering additional food boxes over and above their regular 'pick your own trolley contents' deliveries. With these boxes you don't get to choose the contents but you can more easily get hold of one as they're not subject to the same delivery slot restrictions.

Supermarket slots and Deliveroo type things are even rarer in rural areas and the solutions there have included pubs opening up their spaces to sell groceries (some do deliveries), and other local delivery options.

In all cases the very vulnerable can register with the Government to get a free food box delivered, and local Covid Mutual Aid groups are offering additional support in terms of fetching shopping (and prescriptions). All info in this post.

I've been keeping an eye though on supermarket delivery slots and their appearance / disappearance from the point of view of someone living in London (SE3, Blackheath). Since I've been testing them I've never experienced a point where I wouldn't have been able to get a slot with at least one supermarket. Below is the date and time I tested them and what was available for each supermarket.

Friday 22 May - Midday
Asda - no
Iceland - slots available early evening and late evening on Sat 23rd
Morrisons - no
Ocado - can't get on website
Sainsbury's - no
Waitrose - no
Tesco - several evening slots on Fri and Sat, afternoon and evening slots on Sun

Friday 22 May - 7.30pm

Asda - no
Iceland - several slots for Sun 24th and Mon 25th
Morrisons - no
Ocado - can't get on website
Sainsbury's - several on Mon 25th May
Tesco - evening slots on Sat 30th and Sun 31st
Waitrose - no

Saturday 23 May - 9.30pm
Asda - no
Iceland - several slots for Sunday
Morrisons - no
Ocado - can't get on website
Sainsbury's - no
Tesco - no
Waitrose - no

Sunday 24 May - 11.30am
Asda - no
Co-op - several available (M, T, W, Th)
Iceland - several on Monday 25th and Tuesday 26th available
Morrisons - no
Ocado - can't get on website
Sainsbury's - Tuesdays and Wednesdays, limited time in morning / evening
Tesco - Friday morning, Sun 31st
Waitrose - no

Sunday 24 May - 3pm
Asda - no
Co-op - several available (M, T, W, Th)
Iceland - several on Mon 25th and Tue 26th
Morrisons - no
Ocado - can't get on website
Sainsbury's - one on Tuesday
Tesco - no
Waitrose - no

Monday 25 May - 3pm
Asda - no
Co-op - Mon evening and all day Tue - Friday
Iceland - plenty Tues and Wed, none rest of week
Morrisons - no
Ocado - can't get on website
Sainsbury's - several for Tuesday, couple for Wednesday
Tesco - several for 11, 12, 13 and 14 June
Waitrose - no

Thu 28 May - 1am
Asda - Thu 11 Jun
Co-op - Thu - Mon
Iceland - Thu
Morrisons - no
Ocado - can't get on website
Sainsbury's - Fri morn and Sun afternoon
Tesco - no
Waitrose - Tue 2nd June 10-11am

Sat 30 May - 1am
Asda - Sat 13 June afternoon
Co-op - plenty until Wed 3 June
Iceland - Sunday 31 May - several
Morrisons - no
Ocado - can't get on website
Sainsbury's - 31 May and 2 June
Tesco - no
Waitrose - no

Sunday 31 May - 13:30
Asda - lots on Sun 14th June
Co-op - plenty of slots until Thur 4 June
Iceland - Monday 1st June - several, all day 2nd June
Morrisons - no
Ocado - can't get on website
Sainsbury's - a few on Mon 1st June and Wed 3 June
Tesco - no
Waitrose - no




Saturday, 30 May 2020

Some thoughts on not moving on - Dominic Cummings

I'm adding my annoyance about Dominic Cummings' recent actions to the expanding pile of irritation.

Whether or not he may have broken the law feels secondary to the glib nonsense being emitted from him and the Government about journeys, eyesight tests, spurious contributions to The Spectator and the retconning of his blogpost about coronaviruses.

Ordinarily we might chalk this up to those in power seemingly being able to get away with stuff - under more cheering circumstances parts of this might even have been amusing.

Obeying laws and regulations don't generally come at much of a personal cost but following the Government's coronavirus guidelines has hurt people as well as protected them and people have had to make distressing sacrifices. It's meant people staying away from vulnerable loved ones, people dying alone in hospital or in care homes and sparse funerals being shared online.

Mr Cummings' reading of the guidelines has resulted in lengthy car drives to see his family, visits to scenic spots and tortured explanations after the fact. Agasint the backdrop of everyone else following the necessary guidelines his actions seem perverse.

Had Mr Cummings apologised for the breach and offered his resignation Mr Johnson could still have rejected it, taking the opportunity to clarify that the rules are in place for everyone and saying that no further action would be taken in this instance. I think that would have been imperfect but satisfactory and would have 'drawn a line under it'. The current response tells us, against the evidence of our own senses, that the rules were followed correctly and that reasonable people can make their own judgement on them (a recipe for disaster). What a confusing mess.

This has felt like a slap in the face. We don't like being laughed at and it's troubling that we seem to be being gaslit by official Government responses.

Of course other events will gradually overtake this and everyone will move on whether or not they want to. If people wonder if the UK Government is handling the coronavirus crisis well they might be tempted to view this saga in a different light. Let's hope the poor decision-making and crisis-handling of the Dominic Cummings' situation isn't a proxy marker for how the Government handles other crises.




Thursday, 16 April 2020

Another big plummet in #homeopathy on the NHS England

NB - these figures relate to England only. 

There should be zero homeopathy items being dispensed on the NHS, costing zero pounds but because the prescription cost documents are published every April I assume they capture part of the preceding year.

The new prescription costs were published today and can be found here: Prescription Cost Analysis - England 2019. For previous editions see this page.

The relevant bit is in this spreadsheet
Prescription Cost Analysis 2019 – Statistical summary tables [Excel: 3.8MB] - I used Edit / Find&Replace as a way to quickly find all instances of homeop via a whole workbook search. I also checked for the variant spelling homoeop but didn't find anything.

The Chemical Substances (ho!) tab gives the overview / average and it's in Row 1764 - 2,188 items were dispensed (last year 3,295) costing £48,109.32 (last year £55,044) with the cost per item having risen by about £5 to £21.99 (compared with £16.71 last year).

The NHS dispensed a third fewer homeopathy items in 2019 than it did in 2018. Hopefully this asymptotic crawl to zero will speed up a bit in future.


Image above shows the number of homeopathic items dispensed and the cost, click to enlarge or use the text version below.

Table One
Dispensed items Of which class 2 items Total cost (£) Cost per item (£)
2,188 0 48,109.32 21.99

More detail in the Presentations tab, Rows 11708 and 11709.

Table Two
Dispensed items Of which class 2 items Total quantity Total cost (£) Cost per item (£) Cost per quantity (£) Quantity per item
529 0 49,491 3,231.72 6.11 0.07 93.56
1,659 0 120,544 44,877.60 27.05 0.37 72.66





Friday, 10 April 2020

Make your own heraldic bunting for #Buntingmas


You don't need a printer for any of this :)

If you don't have any paper but do have a laptop / phone / pad you can create your own online heraldic flags here, with some suggested 'code' to type in at the end (see DrawShield below)

#Buntingmas starts tomorrow (11th April) and is a made-up (by me) festival to bring more bunting into our lives and homes. Take a photo of your bunting and tag it with #Buntingmas (Twitter / Instagram).

If you hate bunting this is possibly not the festival for you but to be fair it's probably quite easy to ignore - it's not like the Royal Wedding or the Olympics where bunting was unavoidably ubiquitous. This bunting will mostly be in people's houses, though I'm looking forward to photos of socks on washing lines - pretty much anything you can think of counts as bunting during #Buntingmas.

Unless you already have ready-made bunting to hand (yes that counts) the quickest and simplest bunting involves folding a bit of paper into a concertina and cutting out a half-V shaped notch that produces lots of bunting when unfolded, the second simplest involves folding a sheet of paper in a slightly different way then cutting out the resulting triangle shapes and decorating / hanging them.

The first one needs scissors (harder without but probably not impossible!), the second one doesn't though it's neater if you have them to hand.

Heraldic bunting ideas
The bunting below will definitely be easier with scissors. If you don't have coloured pens or pencils you could just use black and white patterns, or even use cross-hatching to represent colours. Make up your own colour scheme.

The image above shows cross-hatching to represent colours used in heraldry - white for Argent (silver or white), black dots on a white background for Or (gold or yellow), horizontal lines for Azure (blue), vertical lines for Gules (red), horizontal & vertical cross-hatching for Sable (black), diagonal lines running down from top left to bottom right for Vert (green) and diagonal lines running up from bottom left to top right for Purpure (purple). Source: Boutell's Heraldry (1963)

1. Draw a series of blank shield shapes (inspiration) onto pieces of paper 
If you don't have scissors then you could draw the shields next to each other with a small distance between, in a sort of bunting pattern! If your paper is thin enough you could lay it on your device screen and very carefully draw round an on-screen shield shape.

If you have a ruler available choose a width that can easily be divided into six for the checky pattern (see 48 in the top panel on the right below).

2. Decorate them
3. Photograph and share on social media, tagged #Buntingmas
4. (Optional) Cut them out, stick or hang them up in some way then photograph and share.

Images above are simple designs used to illustrate the naming conventions in heraldry - click to enlarge. Source: Boutell's Heraldry (1963)


I rather like 'lozengy' and 'gyronny' and used them in my own heraldic bunting shields, most of which were taken from the book about heraldry I have and some were made up. I used tracing paper to copy a general shield design from the book and used that to create a bunch of blank shields, then I used either ruler and pencil to mark out shapes or traced them. The riverbus logo (looks a bit like a boat, though not much like a galleon) I traced off my iPhone screen which was quite fiddly.

Then I coloured them in, cut them out and taped them to a bit of string before hanging on my living room door.

If you do have a printer and want to use my design help yourself (there's a gap where I made a mistake!).

  


















The pic above on the left is the one I drew and scanned in (photographed with phone), the one on the right is the resulting line drawing produced after running it through (free) Inkscape.

The coloured-in heraldic shields
     
I used a bit of string to hang up my bunting but you could just arrange it on a table or the floor to take a photograph.


Book of Traceable Heraldic Art
http://heraldicart.org/



Using DrawShield (no printer / no paper needed)
The DrawShield website will let you create shields using a 'blazon' (the language used to describe a shield). You can learn more about blazons and blazonry here.

One of two of my shields are not exactly valid, heraldically-speaking, but try inputting the following blazons to create some shields (then try reversing the order of colours or changing them completely).
  • Or a chevron tenné = gold / yellow with an orange chevron
  • Purpure a bar tenné = purple with a horizontal orange bar 
  • Quarterly, per fess wavy, tenné and azure = split in four, wiggly horizontal line, orange & blue 
  • Argent a gurges purpure = White / silver shield with a variant 'gurges' (whirlpool) of purple. The concentric circles shown here is less common, pinched from the family De Gorges' shield, the more common variant (same blazon) results in a spiral pattern.
  • Checky gules and argent = checkerboard pattern, red and white / silver
  • Barry dancetty vert and gules = Wiggly horizontal lines, shield is green, wiggly lines are red
  • Or, three fleurs de lis vert = gold / yellow shield with 3 fleur de lis flowers on it 
  • Gules a sun or = red shield, gold sun
  • Azure a ship argent = blue shield, white ship (in my own case it's the logo for the River Bus)
  • Gyronny of vert and azure = repeating panels of green and yellow (try 'gyronny of six vert and azure' for a variant)
  • Tenné a fleam or = Orange / brown (I think modern heraldry distinguishes these colours but Ye Olde version just treated it as one) shield with a gold / yellow fleam.
  • Lozengy sable and argent = lozenge pattern in black and silver / white
  • Argent a hound tenné passant = White / silver shield, brown dog 'striding' (facing left with right forepaw raised)
  • I did a cat (argent) one too on a green (vert) shield
  • And a non-heraldic bunting upon bunting one. The thing that looks like a pair of yellow and red pants is actually Or, two flaunches gules (Gold/yellow with red flanches / flaunches)


Previous adventures in Buntingmas
An even easier way to make bunting from folded paper - no printer needed #Buntingmas (9 April 2020)
Remember the chain of paper dolls you made as a child, cutting out a half person shape on folded paper then unfolding and producing a chain of people holding hands? Same, but with bunting.

#Buntingmas (it's 11 Apr): How to make low-tech bunting from paper (Wed 1 April 2020)
Folding paper and producing the flags which can then be taped to string, hole punched, glued, blue tacked to the wall or damped and stuck to the window (or just arranged artfully on a table). If you've use water-solube pens etc to decorate them you might want to give the 'damp and stick to window' a swerve, but I stuck a blank bunting to my window on 1 April and it's still there.

How will you celebrate Buntingmas? Craft ideas and classroom activities (Sat 28 Dec 2019)
This post lists some craft options including cake decorations (roll out some icing, cut vaguely triangular shapes, stick on a cake), bunting can be knitted or crocheted, made from modelling clay, actual fabric, paper or you might prefer to draw some online bunting.

The post also has some suggestions about using patterns on flags in communication - eg maritime signal flags, or using the position of flags as the communication (eg semaphore).  Not mentioned in the post is heraldry (another post is coming on that topic) but there's a link to an article about kids making their own coat of arms or personal flag by dividing a shield or flag shape into four and then drawing some favourite things in each segment.




Thursday, 9 April 2020

An even easier way to make bunting from folded paper - no printer needed #Buntingmas

My clever friend Yasmin sent me this simplified bunting pattern, which makes a string of small bunting flags (plus the connecting 'rope') from a piece of paper, in the manner of folding-and-cut-once to make a string of people.

Here's her drawing, click on it to enlarge. Below is the result when I tried it out (my paper is quite thick so I didn't fold it all the way across as it would have been hard to cut).

If you're celebrating #Buntingmas (it starts this Saturday and carries on throughout lockdown, or as long as you want really) then this is possibly the quickest and simplest way of generating some bunting (short of already having bunting ready - all possibly forms of bunting are valid). Some more ideas are in the blog posts linked at the end.

Instructions: fold one edge of a piece of A4 (or any) paper then continue folding in a concertina style back and forth to end up with a piece of paper that looks like lots of letter W when looked at from the side. Cut out a small perpendicular notch, then angle the scissors down to form a pointed half triangle to join the other side. Once cut and unfolded this will produce a string of triangles with a connecting piece between them - a string of bunting, ready to be decorated.

A photograph of one string of bunting made using the method above, showing the unfolded points forming a single string of bunting. Multiple strings can be made from one piece of paper - the flags are small and will probably stick to a window just with water if you don't have glue or other sticky things (or prefer not to use).

You can then trim off the top section (shown on the left in this picture) and repeat the process multiple times down your folded concertina strip.

Take a picture and share it using the tag #Buntingmas :) 

Previously in #Buntingmas
#Buntingmas (it's 11 Apr): How to make low-tech bunting from paper (Wed 1 April 2020)
Folding paper and producing the flags which can then be taped to string, hole punched, glued, blue tacked to the wall or damped and stuck to the window (or just arranged artfully on a table). If you've use water-solube pens etc to decorate them you might want to give the 'damp and stick to window' a swerve, but I stuck a blank bunting to my window on 1 April and it's still there.

How will you celebrate Buntingmas? Craft ideas and classroom activities (Sat 28 Dec 2019)
This post lists some craft options including cake decorations (roll out some icing, cut vaguely triangular shapes, stick on a cake), bunting can be knitted or crocheted, made from modelling clay, actual fabric, paper or you might prefer to draw some online bunting.

The post also has some suggestions about using patterns on flags in communication - eg maritime signal flags, or using the position of flags as the communication (eg semaphore).  Not mentioned in the post is heraldry (another post is coming on that topic) but there's a link to an article about kids making their own coat of arms or personal flag by dividing a shield or flag shape into four and then drawing some favourite things in each segment.