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

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

If you've ever heard this piece of music in a chainstore this is probably why

A few years ago I was in a chainstore and heard a piece of music that sounded so unlike any piece of music that I'd have expected to hear in such a place that I paid a bit more attention to it.

Normally I'm a bit NIMBYish about music in shops and restaurants and have often asked them to turn it down (or ideally off). I love live music but songs that are thoughtlessly piped into shops as audio wallpaper, particularly if they're a bit too loud, tend to make me shop elsewhere. I'm not alone in this NIMBYism and my mum used to be a member of Pipedown (I think Stephen Fry's a patron) - she had tinnitus and found having to contend with shit music didn't help the experience.


This music sounded a bit prog rock lite and while I might not rush out and buy it I was curious as to who had generated it, but the staff were acclimatised to the sound background and hadn't even noticed it.

Recently I was in another shop and heard it again - but nowadays I have Shazam to help me find out what a bit of music is and... it's Christian rock ;)

Band: Iona, Song: Matthew the Man, Album: The Book of Kells

aka "The Instrumental music that plays in lots of retail shops" - this video below explains what's going on rather nicely. There's a device called an Imagesound AHD1 which does the actual piping of the piped music via the internet. When the connection drops it defaults to playing its 'holdingstream' which includes the Iona song. If you just want to go straight to the song it's at 37s in or you can hear it from the Amazon link above.

If it says it's restricted because of EMI copyright then you click on the YouTube icon in the playing window you can watch this video from within YouTube on Cameron's RediffusionMusic channel (see comments below).

One mystery down... the internet is immensely useful for this sort of thing :)

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Questions of cost - eg diabetic complications

One question that makes me blench a little is "how much does it cost to treat an average person with diabetes for one year?" as I know I'm on to a loser there.

First of all it depends if they are using medication (which might be insulin, or tablets or both - but are we including tablets to treat blood pressure and blood fats as well as glucose) and they might be using glucose test strips too. They might be on a pump or using multiple daily injections and we've not even got on to the type of insulin they're using. Also cost to whom? Prescriptions for medications for diabetes are (or should be) free to the person who has diabetes, although other presriptions aren't. Costs do vary for different drugs though.

The cost of diabetes drugs can be found in Prescribing for Diabetes in England documents (you can just imagine how delighted I was to happen across these)...

...and TheyWorkForYou often has random costs illustrated with a table (it depends entirely on what question might have been asked in Parliament) but what of the costs of other interventions and hospital episodes?

Hospital Episode Statistics give a nice overview of the numbers of completed interventions but I don't think I've spotted much in the way of costs. The NHS IC have recently tweaked their portal (it's all frames, everything's the same URL, fetch the smelling salts!) as have the Office for National Statistics (they're very helpful on Twitter).

Where should I be looking?

UKSKEPTICS has suggested NHS reference costs, which looks promising to start with:

Wingardium Avios-a and other flying things

Love the new Avios advert. It's immediately arresting (well it is to me, I just stared and gawped at it the instant that soundtrack came on) and really stands out from among the other commercials. Avios is the new name for Air Miles (never use them myself, am mostly earthbound). The ad agency is (?? the magic comment pixies might tell me ?? - edit: they have, see below) and the music is Leila Arab's 1998 track "Underwaters".

Edit 29 November 2011: A nice man who is doing some work for Avios got in touch with me to tell me about this web page which has more detail on the advert. Thanks Jamie :) I've pinched a little bit of text to illustrate who's behind it:
Director Simon Ratigan from commercials production company HLA and agency 101 London have completed their new commercial for the launch of Avios, BA’s relaunched Airmiles travel rewards scheme.

Fly observes a collection of domestic objects taking to the skies, from washing machines with propellers and high-flying whisks to floating petrol pumps and even levitating lawnmowers.
This video shows the making of the advert and I really like that green bit of kit the chap has in his workshop. I've already tweeted this but I can't resist plugging it a bit more :)

The comments on the video suggest that there might have been a bit more CGI involved but however they did it the end effect is very pleasing.

It's not the only flying thing that's delighted me recently. Vincent Akkermans at Queen Mary University of London made this paper / styrofoam aeroplane which he's given a voice, specifically sound files of jets and airports. The aeroplane has an accelerometer and plays different sounds depending on what it's doing - sounds of jet engines when in flight, sounds of airport hubbub before it takes off - he's written about it on his site here and I posted this video to my Flickr page taken at last week's Dorkbot London #76.

If you're here for Nicola Conte's rather good Jet Sounds album (it's ace but disappointingly no sounds of jets that I could hear) then it's here in its entirety on YouTube too.

Film quiz - logos edition

by @JoBrodie, post written November 2011 and updated September 2016

Edit: 25 April 2012
If you've arrive here looking for the iPhone Logos Quiz app (and from Google Analytics it seems that you probably are) then the link is 

Jump to the bottom for a movie theme (or incidental music from a movie) quiz that I found on YouTube.

Edit: 29 September 2016
Just found this. Wonderful :) It's the very, very start of David Arnold's live-to-picture concert for Independence Day at the Royal Albert Hall on 22 September 2016.

Many of us of a certain age have warm feelings towards the Pearl & Dean logo / ident (what are these things called?!) that used to appear before the main feature and everyone would sing along.

Whenever I go and see a film I always try and guess the film production or distribution company logo / ident / whatever before the logo resolves on screen. In case anyone else wants a go at playing this game I've picked ten of these logos and taken a screenshot at a point when I think the name of the company might be on the tip of your tongue... I wouldn't be surprised if they come after me and ask me to take the images down, and I will totally cave :)

Edit: 25 April 2012
Before we start I should acknowledge that not everyone likes these - here's Family Guy's Peter Griffin getting pretty miffed at a selection of studio logos (oh so that's what they're called) before whatever film he's gone to see with Brian.

The Film Logos Quiz
The answers to this little film quiz are in a separate blog post.

Film Quiz number one...

Film Quiz number two...

Film Quiz number three...

Film Quiz number four...

Film Quiz number five...

Film Quiz number six... (it's from The Simpsons)

Film Quiz number seven...

Film Quiz number eight...

Film Quiz number nine...

Film Quiz number ten...

Good luck :)

Further Quizzing
Can you name the movie studio by logo? by jimborama at Sporcle

Film Themes Quiz by Cheese8787 - answers given in the blurb about the video

Be warned with this one below - the answers are not given!

Movie Themes Quiz by Cozmopolitan86

Film quiz - logos edition with answers

EDIT: If you've arrive here looking for the iPhone Logos Quiz app (and from Google Analytics it seems that you probably are) then the link is

This post has the answers to the film quiz I've just published because I realised that what I wanted was for the quiz (without answers) to appear at the top of the blog, hence writing it in reverse ;)

**spoilers below - if you've not already seen the quiz**

I've written the answers in white text so you'll have to highlight the text to see them (not sure if it's worked), although I've included a link to the YouTube channel where you can watch the logo unfold so that should also be a clue. Let's hope I've not made any mistakes.

1. link Universal
2. link Dreamworks
3. link Working Title
4. link Village Roadshow
5. link Warner Bros
6. link Gracie Films
7. link Miramax
8. link Columbia
9. link Castle Rock
10. link Touchstone

Thursday, 24 November 2011

The Burzynski clinic has ever so many trials

I'm not sure what to make of the Burzynski Clinic. Twitter is currently filling up with the disturbing news that one of their PR people has sent the blogger @lecanardnoir a threatening lawyerly type letter (which you can read, along with his response, on his blog).

This coincides with the fact that there is a benefit gig happening tonight with some big names - the purpose is to raise money to send a little girl with cancer to the Burzynski Clinic in the US for a treatment for which, as far as anyone can tell, there isn't enough evidence that any benefits outweigh the risks. There are some testimonials but those don't count unfortunately.

It's surprising that there's not much evidence because there are so many trials ongoing, 61 according to one of the clinical trials register - This is a basic search for any record that includes the word Burzynski anywhere within it so I should be cautious before drawing any major conclusions because a trial might be nothing to do with them but just reference them...

As far as I'm aware a trial registration isn't an indication of quality or whether or not the trial is a fair test of a treatment, merely that it's been registered.
Of these 61 trials:
10 are recruiting
35 are of unknown status
7 are withdrawn
2 are terminated
1 is completed - it began in March 1996 and was completed in 2005. Its clinical identifier is NCT00003509 and this does not appear anywhere in PubMed.
5 are active, not recruiting
1 is not yet recruiting
There are plenty of trials published by Burzynski about antineoplastons (the name of the intervention) although they don't seem to match up with the clinical trials registration (I've not looked at all of them so it's certainly possible that some of them do).
It seems there was a big trial but that it fell apart amidst big fights...

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The links for retweets still work even though they seem hidden

Alas, with NEW NEW TWITTER now rolled out for most people (everyone?) these links no longer work and resolve to the Twitter / Interactions page. Favstar still works perfectly though, I recommend using that. I've done a strikethrough on the text below, keeping it there for historic reasons though.

I am now convinced that 2011 is the year that social media went a bit crap. I've been muttering about Google and Twitter (and especially Google AND Twitter when they stopped the fantastically useful Google Realtime) for a few months now and I think an earlier tweet by @Evil_Dumbledore expressing the opinion that Twitter's new look is like people who have facial surgery in the hopes of looking better but end up looking worse is about right. 

Don't get me started on the changes to their terms and conditions which made the easy exporting of tweets a distant memory.

Anyway - I didn't properly shut down my computer last night so I still had the option to capture the links for the three items in the Retweets column. I've checked each and they appear to work (no guarantee that they'll work in future though) so here they are if you want to access just the RTs themselves, without all the @mention nonsense.

Twitter's done this before (hidden the pointers that used to go to links), most notably with RSS - there used to be a small RSS icon at the bottom of most pages but that disappeared earlier this year. I trapped the URLs for those too before being migrated permanently to 'New Twitter' and you can find them by searching for RSS here - again no guarantee that RSS feeds will be available from Twitter in future. Bastards ;)

Edit: 11 November 2011
@carolinepennock spotted that if you remove the #! from the tweet then you can call up a page where you'll see the old tabs. I've represented this visually below :-)
Retweets by Others | Retweets by you | Your tweets, Retweeted - the middle one doesn't work, it just resolves to the new #! version.


I also highly recommend Favstar as a tool for seeing all sorts of information about your tweets and those of others in terms of what's been retweeted and favourited. As always you get a bit more if you authorise it and log in via Twitter.

Tweets of mine that were recently retweeted (just replace my name with yours to see yours):
*sounds a bit biblical doesn't it...

While I'm having a moan Twitter appears to have killed off Blackbird Pie which let you plug in a tweet URL, eg!/TeamJanetUK/status/134703908445622272 (a fellow warrior in the fight to get RTs reinstated as their own button) and get a bit of code to embed in your blog - enabling you to embed tweets on an ad hoc basis. It's still perfectly possible to embed tweets but it's just that bit faffier. Stop it.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Social media brand sentiment analytics for charities etc - free 4mth beta test via @cbanalytics

Conflict of interest disclaimer:
I know and work with the people who make this product. However I am not going to benefit personally from telling you about this clever techy thing that they have made :)


Update 8 November 2011: Chatterbox Analytics features briefly in an article in The Times called "Intel supercomputer to aid start-ups in East London" (subscription required). You can read a snippet at QMUL's news page.


If you want to find out what people are saying about your brand you might be pleased to know that Chatterbox Analytics (@cbanalytics, Facebook page) is offering a free four month tryout - for you to get some info about what sorts of discussions are going on via Twitter and Facebook etc and for them to get data on refining the system.

I can't pretend to understand much more than that but if phrases like this...

"The Chatterbox service combines a simple to use front-end browser with a powerhouse back-end analytics system to effectively identify key opinion drivers within the dynamic community who are talking about your brand, combining this with drill-down statistics on message content."

...make sense then this might be for you, and you can sign up for free.

I work in the same office (in the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science at Queen Mary, University of London) as one of the people behind this, Stuart Battersby, and he says he's more than happy to meet up with organisations and demo the system to them. I've also had a play on my iPhone with his Sentimental iPhone app (I know people who've made an iPhone app!! ). He and Matthew Purver have been working on Chatterbox Analytics and Matt's in the office along the corridor.

Given that charities are not looking to spend money at the moment but might find the data useful anyway, in return for a bit of feedback, then I thought I'd pimp this towards my charity chums. Other business are using it too of course, but I have my charity head on this evening.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Rarely a fan of embedded links within low-information phrases

I like information and I like organising it and, to me, a web address (URL) contains information.

Even if an URL is embedded like this (Nicola Conte's "Jet Sounds" on YouTube) you can still see what the address is by hovering over it (unless you've switched off that particular status bar) - this just lets you know where you're clicking to, can be useful if you suspect a spam address etc.

Sometimes URLs don't contain much useful information though and I've just found a small example of some unhelpful addresses in a piece of text I wrote, but which is fortunately saved by me having written the name of the file into the text.

I have a secret stash of pointers to diabetes statistical information but... because the Office for National Statistics have recently tweaked their website this means that virtually none of their links work or redirect to ones that do, so the information below goes nowhere. I'm patting myself on the head for at least having included the document titles so I'm fairly confident I'll be able to find the files' new location.

This is exactly the same as supermarkets moving the store contents around (to get you to take a different path and buy more stuff you've not seen before) but at least they usually produce wee leaflets to guide you to where everything is.

"Data for “Deaths ONS” column (Office for National Statistics) for 1999-2005 taken from spreadsheets in Mortality Statistics: Cause (Series DH2), 2006-2009 data is from Mortality statistics: Deaths registered in England and Wales (Series DR) and 2010 from Death registrations in England and Wales, selected data tables (specifically “Death registrations by sex and single year of age, 1961 to 2010, England and Wales and UK”)."

I'll be spending a small bit of time finding the new location for these and will post them up as I come across them. I'm not too worried as even if I don't find them myself the @statisticsONS Twitter people are lovely and helpful and have reunited me with several much-loved stats files already.

I went to ONS pages, clicked on the Data tab and then searched for 'Mortality statistics' - looks useful.

Another good route in is the Browse by theme tab, then on the right hand side of the page look for the 'Causes of death' link within the Health and Social Care / Health of the Nation bit.

Yes I have been a bit careful about embedding these links :)

Mortality Statistics - deaths registered in England and Wales (Series DR) 2009 - I'm also leaving the raw URL here as the nice thing is that you can copy and paste this and replace 2009 with 2008. If only everything was this simple!

In all cases the relevant one, for diabetes deaths, is Table 5.4 - once there choose Data in this release and then look for 5.4
- eg Table 5.4 Deaths: underlying cause, sex and age-group, 2009: Chapter IV Endocrine, nutritional and metabolic diseases

That's as far as it goes...

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Google cache is still there, just a bit hidden

Google crawls and indexes all the webpages it looks at so it knows exactly which words are in the page and whereabouts. If you stick a few terms in the search bar the Cached version of any of the pages you look at will have your search terms highlighted in a variety of colours.

This is really useful because it lets you see the frequency / density of your word in relation to other words, and also whether or not your search terms are close to each other on the page. I often have cause to search for information relating to diabetes but it's diabetes and something else. If the page has the word diabetes in some side-bar or mentioned in passing (not useful to me, I want stuff about my search terms) this is immediately cued to me in a delightful display of colours.

Cache used to lurk quietly underneath each search item - for the last umpteen years it's been the only thing I've ever clicked on in Google. I can't remember a time when I've not used it in prefence to clicking on the main link. So a bit annoying that it's not just there anymore. It is there but you have to hover then click on it in the preview. I presume Google has taken a leaf out of the Slow Food movement and is making us enjoy the hunt that bit more.

Here is what I hope is an illustrative screenshot showing the sequence - click to enlarge (my next blog post should be about finding out how to resize images in Blogger without blurring them so that you don't have to click to enlarge...).

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Errol Denton / Fitalifestyle: sixth (was fourth) ASA adjudication upheld

Update 20 April 2018: Today the subject of this post was fined £2,200, ordered to pay costs of £15,000 and given a Criminal Behaviour Order (which, if breached, puts him in contempt of court). The Advertising Standards Authority referred his protracted case(s) to Camden Trading Standards who brought proceedings, resulting in a trial at Blackfriars Crown Court which concluded in March 2018 with sentencing today. The ASA has said that it welcomes the outcome. See also info from Court News.

Update 12 October 2014:
On Friday the subject of this post was fined £4,500 and lost his appeal at Southwark Crown Court. I don't know if the £4.5k is an adjusted figure or an addition to the previous fines. 

Update 20 March 2014: Today the subject of this post was fined £9,000 for nine counts of the Cancer Act of 1939 at Westminster Magistrates Court and handed a total bill (including costs) of over £19,000. He did not attend this final court hearing and did not represent himself.  

One man, six ASA adjudications... an epic tale. 


Edit 12 March 2013 - There are now six (six!!) Advertising Standards Authority adjudications or other actions against the misleading claims made by this man on his various websites (and a leaflet). It's almost unfathomable but yet another citation against his claims was posted on the non-compliant advertisers today. Probably not that coincidentally, yesterday someone from the ASA spoke to BBC Radio 4's You and Yours specifically about his claims and how they've been unable to get him to budge on them.

You can hear the six minute clip about "the blood test 'expert' who says he can treat cancer yet can't back up his claims" and read the ASA's latest ruling against Live Blood Test trading as Errol Denton

More interestingly, of the 43 advertisers posted on the ASA's non-compliant list three of them have made misleading claims about what live blood testing also known as nutritional microscopy can do. However at least neither of the other two undertook a smear campaign to call skeptic bloggers racist, which seems to have backfired somewhat, judging from Google's autofill.

Edit 27 February 2013 - Unbelievably there's been another ASA adjudication upheld (the complaint was from two different people, neither of them me, I've been reluctant to get involved since this all happened. It means there are now five adjudications (four specifically against Mr D, one against Groupon which was advertising Mr D's services) and a sixth citation for him on the ASA's non-compliant online advertisers list. SIX separate sanctions. Unbelievable.

Edit 16 November 2011 - Josephine Jones tweeted earlier today that Fitalifestyle / SeeMyCells aka Errol Denton has been added to the Advertising Standards Authority's "Hall of Shame" ('advertisers who fail to comply' pages) which didn't surprise me in the slightest. It's not immediately obvious if you're looking in the ASA's adjudications that four of them are about Errol Denton because there are so many different websites and claims involved. Three separate websites (including one on Groupon's site) were cited in four complaints to the ASA (all of which were upheld) on different 'treatments' or diagnostic tests including liquid chlorophyll and nutritional microscopy.

It was only because Josephine (see more below) Googled, found my blog and emailed me that I knew of her other complaints. I've no idea if the ASA's database flag up situations along the lines of "gee this looks familiar" but I know I mentioned within the last month to the ASA that this was actually the fourth adjudication and I suspect Josephine may have done so too, or quite possibly they've looked at our blogs.

I wonder if Jeni Barnett knows...
Short version
The Advertising Standards Authority has upheld my latest complaint. This adjudication was against Fitalifestyle Ltd’s website which made misleading claims, yet again, about nutritional microscopy – a nonsense diagnostic tool. Fitalifestyle Ltd is the trading name of Errol Denton and there are two main websites: and, there’s also

This is the fourth complaint upheld against misleading advertising claims made by or on behalf of Errol Denton: two complaints were from me and two from another blogger, Josephine Jones.

Previous complaints to the ASA, all now upheld adjudications
 • Leaflet - complaint by me: Adjudication | Blog post this was advertising Errol Denton's website too

• Liquid chlorophyll from Fitalifestyle trading as - complaint by Josephine: Adjudication | Blog post

• Groupon ad for Live Blood Test - complaint by Josephine: Adjudication | Blog post - this one was particularly interesting as in addition to the misleading claims made about the intervention it seems that a lot of customers had a miserable customer experience as well and many have added their 'testimonials' on a variety of forums on the web.

• Fitalifestyle website ( - the most recent complaint, by me: Adjudication | (and this is the accompanying blog post)

Longer version
One rather useful thing about the internet is that it helps you draw different bits of information together. It was over a year ago that I blogged about a leaflet for Nutritional Microscopy (specifically that sold by Errol Denton as Fitalifestyle Ltd / After learning more about the evidence (none at all) for the claims made I was able to put in a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority which was upheld (and I updated the blogpost). 

A few months after that I got an email from blogger Josephine Jones who said that she’d put in a complaint about someone else who was offering live blood analysis. She also had a complaint against Errol’s website which was making unwise claims about liquid chlorophyll. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with selling liquid chlorophyll (I seem to remember it fluoresces in an impressively blood-red sort of way when viewed under ultraviolet light) but saying that it does anything special when consumed by people seems to be taking things a bit far. Josephine also had a complaint upheld against Groupon because they were selling live blood tests and repeating the misleading claims.
So because Josephine searched online for information on live blood testing, found my blog and got in touch I know that there are at least FOUR upheld adjudications against this individual / company’s marketing for nutritional microscopy (on a leaflet,, and on Groupon’s website). Probably if she'd not got in touch I wouldn't have known there were this many as I'd not have thought to search for the Groupon one.
My recent complaint, about Fitalifestyle Ltd’s web pages, included the claim that nutritional microscopy provides an “insightful view of the biological terrain” which is a phrase that appears on rather a lot of websites, including (it’s still there at the time of writing): 
That phrase isn’t particularly problematic but I think it does suggest that all of these practitioners are getting their web content from the same place. I think someone’s done an analysis on errors in transcription that appear in various copies of the bible and other texts where monks made mistakes and people can track phrases in different versions of books. I wonder if anyone will do a similar study on this ;)

Next steps
Ongoing monitoring of the site (this can be automated in Google of course) for the misleading words and phrases and their appearance on other pages on one or more of the websites. This has happened before.
Further reading