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, 23 January 2011

Blog stats for this blog

I've had this blog since June 2009. In October 2009 I started a second blog over at Posterous for science communication jobs. Posterous automatically provides information about the 'hits' a post has received and I was genuinely amazed to find that people were visiting posts about job adverts in their hundreds (several posts have topped two thousand). This surprised me because I'd have thought that it was a fairly niche interest and that posts would only have a few tens to low hundreds of hits.

Of course all sorts of random things happen on the internet with search engines crawling sites (apparently these are counted too) and the high hits don't imply that people intended to arrive at the science communication jobs blog, or spent any time there.

This made me curious about readers, if any, of my own blog and so I added a Google Analytics code in May 2010 (I've written about this before, this post is sort of an update) and waited to see what happens.

It would seem that my blog gets about 100 hits a day (about 3,000 a month) whether or not I tweet about my posts, or whether or not I write anything - most seem to be coming in via Google searches. Oh ;)

The most hits in one day was 1,445 when Ben Goldacre tweeted a link to my post about nerd days out and in that month I had over 6,000 hits which can be seen in the graph below.

The image below shows not the Google Analytics information, but the in-house Blogger stats (well, it's all Google really) which they began doing in July 2010. If you have a Blogger blog you can find your stats in a tab on the dashboard - I'd be surprised if you've not spotted it yet ;)

Blog stats for my blog Click for full size version.

I'm pleased enough with the stats - I'm delighted that anyone finds the blog and reads it and super pleased when people leave nice comments - but, as with so many things these days, the time I spent playing with the full-scale Google Analytics turned out to be useful for my work at UCL. Which reminds me a little of the xkcd cartoon

One of the things we want to do with the CHI+MED project (although I work at UCL the project itself, which is on making medical devices safer, is running at Swansea University, Queen Mary's University and City University) is to make our website a useful place because public engagement is a major part of our remit (we're funded by the EPSRC).

We're working with people who design medical devices (such as infusion pumps that deliver chemotherapy), with the regulatory bodies who licence medical devices, with people who buy the devices for the NHS (commissioning), people who train the nurses who will use the pumps, and we're also wanting to work with patients who are using them as well as raising the awareness of patient safety with everyone.

One way we can test how useful our site is, or is becoming (early days), is to see how people are using the site once there and how they get there. I've noticed that people visiting the CHI+MED website spend more time there and look at more pages than those who look at my blog, which is rather encouraging. The chances are though it's not the same group of people who are visiting so I'm not drawing too many conclusions from this data. I'm also not too surprised that people don't spend the same amount of time on my blog as it's not a cohesive whole (one blog post doesn't particularly relate to any others).

Anyway, it's been quite interesting for me, but I still have a lot to learn about Google Analytics!

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Holland and Barrett are flogging Cho Yung tea for weightloss

Very quick post to jot some thoughts down; another one for Trading Standards I think.

Recently I was briefly surprised to see Holland and Barrett selling a weight loss tea product (surely that's too silly even for them) but a quick trawl on Google indicates that even the affiliate marketers to be found in the MoreNiche forum are avoiding it (although see below for Proactol), and it's appeared on the MoneySavingExpert forum being highlighted as a scam as well.

Cho Yung weight loss tea

As with all these weight loss teas it's quite difficult to find the company's actual website in among all the review sites (these exist solely to route visitors towards a purchase while taking up the top pages of all google searches for the product). I'm not sure if is the original website because the writing tone suggests a certain distance between the author and the product (but that could just be a bit of dissembling) - anyway they seem to think the product has been taken off the market and are instead advertising Proactol which is yet another weight loss tea.

As always, I wonder what the evidence is for these weight loss tea products.

Right at the bottom of the Proactol page (redirected from Cho Yung) there's a rather amusing graph where they struggle to spell in vitro. I'm not sure how good a model of dietary fat absorption an in vitro test is, but there are hints of pilot data in humans but no indication of where this is published. Tellingly, the page is almost entirely filled with supportive statements from doctors (these are as meaningless as patient testimonials).

Not surprisingly, it's yet another site which is using the same Nottingham telephone number 0115 979 8449 and a quick search of the MoreNiche site shows that Proactol is being flogged by their members too.

Strangely enough, when I closed the Proactol tab there was a small warning message asking me if I really wanted to close the page. While I was reading, the page behind the popup message changed to advertising Tava Tea, another weight loss product (this time from Roduve Healthcare solutions) for which I've not found any evidence either, nor their weight loss patch which I previously blogged about. Their number is 0115 979 8437.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Diabetes statistics bookmarked

We are in the process of updating our 'Diabetes in the UK 2010' document and I thought it was about time I got some of my stats-related bookmarks into a better order. They've rather run away with themselves and hopefully by putting them here I'll be able to work out what it was I was trying to find information on. This is a bit of a mixed bag (by no means complete) as we end up working on different aspects of it. If I find anything bookmark-worthy from my colleagues I'll add it here as well.

EDIT: 2 August 2011 - I've added a few more statistics resources.

If you know of a great resource that I've not put here yet, do give me a prod @JoBrodie ta :)

APHO (Association of Public Health Observatories)

Audits and general statistics (see also Children)
National Diabetes Audit
From 2003, latest data collection Sep / Oct 2010, latest report 2009 (background) (other)

National Diabetes Audit Executive Summary 2008-2009

NHS Atlas of Variation in Healthcare

NHS IC reports

QOF database, example Bradford & Airedale PCT (see ‘Search’ tab to select others)
For explanation of what QOF is see and

UK National Statistics – Publication Hub on diabetes topics
see also

Benchmarking and commissioning
Diabetes Community Health Profiles

Diabetes Data Directory

lntroduction to the NHS Diabetes Commissioning Resource

The fifth UK paediatric diabetes services survey: meeting guidelines and recommendations? July 2010 [BMJ abstract]

National Diabetes Paediatric Report 2008-2009

National Diabetes Audit
Key findings about the quality of care for children and young people with diabetes in England and Wales Report for the audit period 2007-2008

Comorbidities and other conditions
CEMACH diabetes reports

NASDAB: National Amputee Statistical Database (UK)
replaced by 'Limbless Statistics'
Unfortunately latest report is 2006 / 2007

Number of people with diabetes who have received screening for diabetic retinopathy in England

English National Screening Programme for Diabetic Retinopathy (ENSPDR)

Four Nations involvement

2010 Annual Evidence Update on Diabetic Retinopathy - Screening for diabetic retinopathy (methodologies)

NHS Evidence – diabetes: Retinopathy>Causes, Risk Factors and Screening

Critical appraisal info
Statistics at Square One

: Diabetes populations across the US

IDF (International Diabetes Federation): Diabetes Atlas

Labour Force Survey: Employment status by occupation and sex

National Statistics: Population Trends Spring 2008, No 131

NatCen (National Centre for Social Research)

NHS Evidence – diabetes (see also Treatments)

Office for National Statistics

NeLM search for diabetes
National electronic Library for Medicines

Health surveys
Health Survey for England

Health Survey for England - 2008 summary of key findings

Health Survey for England - 2008 trend tables and

Health Survey for England - 2008: Physical activity and fitness

Hospital admissions
Clinical and Health Outcomes Knowledge Base
Emergency hospital admissions: diabetic ketoacidosis and coma!OpenDocument



National service framework for diabetes: standards

[Report] Turning the Corner: Improving Diabetes Care (2006)

[Report] Six Years On Delivering the Diabetes National Service Framework (2010)

Insulin pumps
Scotland only
Appendix 2 Table of NHS Board planned investment in Insulin Pump Therapy
Judging from the Hansard reports (via TheyWorkForYou) retinopathy screening seems to be discussed more by Parliament in relation to Scotland

NHS Scotland: Figures are for patients with Type 1 diabetes receiving insulin pump therapy as of August 2009

YHPHO Insulin pump audit (2010)

Uncertainties about the Effects of Treatments

NHS Evidence - UK Database of Uncertainties about the Effects of Treatments (DUETs)

Prescription costs
Prescription Cost Analysis 2008

Prescribing for Diabetes in England: Supplement – January 2002 to March 2009
NHS IC – all prescription information

ABPI: Facts & Statistics from the pharmaceutical industry
Pharmaceuticals and the UK economy

NHS Information Centre report finds a 40% rise in cost and number of prescriptions to treat diabetes in England over the last 5 years (July 2010)

GPRD: Drug Utilisation & Disease Patterns
(don’t think I can access this but haven’t spent a lot of time on it)

Drug Topics 2010 (US)
2009 Top 200 generic drugs by total prescriptions

Monday, 3 January 2011

Is there a TV programmes 'incidental music' database?

Edit: 24 June 2013 - pretty sure I've just heard the bit of music referred to in 'Chicken Run' below in a Channel 4 Dispatches programme on problems with police, in the first segment on the Lawrence murder. 

Edit: 20 July 2015 - an enterprising person submitted an FOI request to the BBC to get information about a song used in an episode of Tracey Beaker. This is probably overkill but might work as a last resort.

There's something very pleasing about hearing a piece of music you like, or recognise, but not knowing what it is and then finding out. For me, the longest gap between hearing and knowing what something was about ten years when I finally found out that the Ford Mondeo advert featuring David Duchovny was using Bernard Herrmann's 'Prelude and Rooftop' score from Vertigo.


Every television programme I've ever seen has credits at the end for everyone involved in bringing the programme to the screen, but the incidental music doesn't seem to get much of a look in. Why?

I know that the details of (most? of) this music must get noted down somewhere because royalties might need to be paid so presumably the information exists although there may not be the will, or the requirement, to publish this anywhere.

There are quite a few ways to find out what a piece of music is, for example:-
  • Shazam - there's a free iPhone app and it's not bad at all (it solved this bit of shop-based music for me)
  • sometimes the subtitles (if you've got them switched on) will tell you what a piece of music is, especially on adverts
  • Googling - extremely effective if you want to know what an advert's music is as you've got your keywords sorted out and are bound to find a forum somewhere in which someone's asked and answered that question. YouTube's also a good source. A bit tougher if your music of interest is 17 minutes in to a particular programme though, but not impossible.
  • Twitter, obviously
  • Edit: via commenter below, thank you Anonymous. This is pretty cool - you can play a few notes on an online piano and then search for it. Clever.
People seem happy to answer questions about what a piece of music is (done it myself on several forums over the years) and they also seem happy to add their contributions about all sorts of things in a crowdsourcing way. Plenty of things on the internet where people have filled in the gaps in a slightly obsessive way, for example Wikipedia has a list of all the Midsomer villages that appear in Midsomer murders in case you'd forgotten one.

Is there something similar that collects notifications of incidental television music? It would seem to be the sort of project that would lend itself quite well to crowdsourcing as there lots of bits of music used many will recognise, and a few obscure ones that my mate Neil will probably know and everyone knows an obscure bit of music that other people don't know don't they?

Unfortunately I haven't the faintest idea how ones goes about creating and setting up such a website, and given the nature of the thing I thought it would already exist (there are several sites covering the music featuring in adverts and themes from children's television programmes etc) but I've not found it yet.

One day this database will exist and I'll find out what the incidental music was for a BBC Panorama programme about cruelty in the poultry industry called "The Chicken Run" broadcast in May 2003. It had some eerie music in the background, but Shazam can't help me as it's not on television now.

I suppose another thing I need is some sort of web-based computer app which has a keyboard that will let me record a few notes and send people a link saying "It sounded a bit like this... do you know what it is?"

------- Successfully bagged incidental music, that I obviously like --------

Incidentally (hoho) Andy of @Digitonal is pretty good at knowing what a piece of music is...

See also Music that I discovered from adverts

Brian Eno - An Ending (Ascent)

Subterraneans (Part.01). Philip Glass David Bowie Brian Eno

Elbow - Mirrorball

Philip Glass - Koyaanisqatsi (The Grid)

Philip Glass - Koyaanisqatsi (Pruitt Igoe)

What things do you hear cropping up in programmes and know what they are?

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Do Slimweight patches work? How?

I Last week someone tweeted a link to the Daily Mail article: "Why putting on just half a stone will cause your husband's eyes to start wandering" aka "Why eating too much Christmas turkey might not be good for your relationship".

This advertised a product called Slimweight patch, and had a quote from Dr Tim Thurlings who is associated / affiliated with Roduve Healthcare solutions who market the product. He is also 'Dr Tea' behind Tava Tea but I don't know if that's from Roduve as well and I think PR is by The London PR Agency.

As to whether or not it actually works though - I've no idea. I really can't see how it could. The main website (you'll find it easily with Google) has a page on clinical studies, however none of them seem to be relevant.

The studies report on individual ingredients and didn't look at the actual formulation with all ingredients present. Although some studies were in humans, some were on animals (less relevant) and not one of them actually tested the patch delivery system (instead capsules were used) and so it's a bit difficult to draw any conclusions from these studies about how well it might work.

The ingredients list mention some plant names but not which component of the plant is used, either at the level of particular chemicals or even which part (roots? aerial parts?) of the plant that's used. I don't think it's very easy to get individual chemicals, or mixtures, or bits of plant, to be absorbed across the skin (nicotine's a notable exception but despite coming from tobacco plants it's just one chemical) particularly as the skin has evolved to be quite a good barrier.

The website's 'How it works' page also makes the claim that the transdermal technology used means that the nutrients are absorbed straight into the bloodstream which 'cuts out inefficient digestion'. This would be true if the ingredients, as formulated, could actually get across the skin but as no evidence is given about that it's not a claim I can really get behind yet.

If you search for 'Slimweight patch' on Google you'll find umpteen pages that all somehow ultimately lead to a place where you can buy the patches. There are review articles on websites that seemingly exist solely to provide these referral links. There are even a couple of articles on how to do this, thanks to the members of the MoreNiche forum (an eye opening read).

This one offers some suggestions for example 'keyword rich domain names' and a 12 point plan which involves writing a product review on a blog then sending 50 links back to it, submitting articles to these review sites and comment on other people's blogs.

If anyone ever wants to know how to create a buzz for a product it would seem these are the people to ask. Even if you search for 'Slimweight patch scam' you won't find pages wondering if the patch is too good to be true, but affiliated pages designed to highlight its positive effects and to help people buy the product if they want it. Clever ;)

It reminds me of those vortex coin collectors into which I used to drop pennies as a child - everything spinning inwards towards a central point, and then the money drops through.

EDIT: 26 January 2011 - presumably sites like this are going to find themselves in difficulties come 1 March as the ASA will begin looking at claims on websites and not just broadcast or print adverts.