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

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Google in Education: Paul Curzon on 'Inspiring students about computing'

Today I lurked on a Google Hangout. It worked amazingly - OK there were a couple of glitches (getting booted out but really quick to get back in again) but I was amazed at several aspects of it. Whenever someone spoke the camera switched to them - I didn't know it did this, having two windows open (the camera image and presentation slides) worked very well for the viewer (although a bit fiddly for the presenter) and when finished the completed recording was on Google's site within minutes. Impressive.

I think you'll have to go here to see the video though, I suspect it's not possible to 'embed' a Google Hangout in a blog but I may be wrong (if you know please tell me).

Google in Education: Paul Curzon on 'Inspiring students about computing'

Background information

cs4fn (Computer Science for fun) is the name of the project.

The text below is just lifted from what I wrote about it on the Google pages, with better links.

Today my boss Paul Curzon talked about sharing stories to get across ideas of how to get school children thinking about computation and human factors in computer science teaching. He used examples of "I'm thinking of someone, can you guess who it is?" and the types of questions you'd need to ask to work it out.

It wouldn't help to keep asking "Is it A?", "Is it B?" as you'd be asking questions forever. Instead it's better to ask 'halving' questions that reduce, with each question, the number of possibles. So "are they still alive?" or "is it a man or a woman?" are good questions to ask.

He gave the example of strategies used by the author of the Diving Bell and the Butterfly (the author, Jean-Dominique Bauby, had locked-in syndrome after a stroke and could only communicate by blinking an eye) and his writing assistant to make transcribing his thoughts easier. Rather than having to blink once when the relevant letter was read (a, b, c, d, e, f, g [blink] = g) they used the frequency of letters in the language to speed up his dictation.

There are other strategies too, eg ask someone to blink if the letter is in the first half of the alphabet, then 'halve' again.

It's not just about algorithms of course. It's easy to design a system that does something well but it's important to remember the people who are going to be using it... (nb: wikipedia link)

I really enjoyed hearing my boss tell stories and I also enjoyed the bit setting things up before. We realised that the webcam was particularly sensitive to the 50Hz flicker of tube lighting so went off to source some 'red head' lights which have a nice warm light. It turns out that we have, at QMUL, the most amazing resources for filming - thanks to Richard Kelly for helping us with tripods and whatnot. And thanks to Google for setting this up in the first place and Jonathan B for roping me in for some geeky fun :)

The slight irony is that I couldn't participate in the Google Hangout myself because it would have caused interference and confusion, and I won't be able to join in much on tomorrow's one either (more coming on that) because I have the official role of Camera Op Two. It really means holding the webcam steady but I am rather looking forward to it...

Thursday, 15 November 2012

ASA adjudicates on misleading diabetes advert on World Diabetes Day ;)

Fairly often, on a Wednesday, I take a look at the rulings from the Advertising Standards Authority and today I was surprised to see this one - and on World Diabetes Day! It's not one of my complaints (see more after the line).

The advert is available in full at the link above, here's an excerpt - note that the advert talks only about Type 2 diabetes and not Type 1:
The aim of any reversal programme is to help people to control their condition and, where possible, reduce or eliminate the need for medication.

His diabetes was so out of control that he had been told he would need to begin taking insulin ... After following the [redacted] ... his diabetes was totally under control without medication...
As far as I can tell it's a residential programme with access to properly qualified healthcare professionals (doctor and nurse) and people lose weight on it.

The word 'reversal' makes me twitchy though and in their response to the ASA's questions about this the company said that "a reversal of Type 2 diabetes could be defined as a reduction in an individual's blood glucose levels, a reduction in their medication, and in some cases an elimination of the need for medication."

Well... a bit... I suppose. I've always felt that a reversal of diabetes would also include significant improvements in blood fats (cholesterol etc) and blood pressure. Glucose is a big part of diabetes but there's a lot of cardiovascular stuff going on too.

I'm not sure if reversal would also mean an elimination of the threat of future complications too - although we might be getting into the tricky semantics of what is meant by 'reversal' or 'cure' and the company were very clear in their acknowledgement that there's no cure for Type 2 diabetes.

They also said that until recently "the charity Diabetes UK had not used the word "reversal" in relation to Type 2 diabetes, even though it was in common usage in the United States. They explained that that had changed in June 2011 when a small scale study undertaken by Newcastle University, funded by Diabetes UK, showed that Type 2 diabetes was reversible through diet. They stated that as a result of the study Diabetes UK had accepted that a change in diet could lead to a reversal of the symptoms of Type 2 diabetes."

Reversal of symptoms... reversal of Type 2 diabetes - which is it. Many people with Type 2 diabetes have no symptoms or any symptoms they have can easily be explained as 'just getting older'. People with well-controlled diabetes might not have the symptoms of diabetes either, but that's not a reversal of T2 diabetes.

I can't help thinking that companies that make health claims could be keeping skeptic bloggers on some sort of retainer, periodically sending them advertising material to pre-snark at before it goes live. Sort of like testing your prototype to destruction. (No, I am not offering my services).

The statement "a small scale study... showed that T2 diabetes was reversible through diet" was the thing that made me sit up on the bus this morning when I read it. They're referring to a small pilot study - that I wrote about in detail here - in which the trial participants underwent a fairly extreme diet which was very low in calories (600cal), and lasted for probably a bit longer (two months) than you might undertake on a residential healthy holiday. The trial diet and the residential programme seem to be two very different and non-comparable things and although the advert doesn't make any claims linking the two I'm really surprised that this was used in the evidence given to the ASA afterward.

The company also volunteered several satisfied customers who were prepared to offer testimonials about reductions in medication and improvements in their health... oh dear.

Not all negative though - I was pleased to see that if "a guest decided they wanted to reduce or stop taking their diabetes medication, an appointment would be made for them to discuss any changes with the doctor. They also stated that when a guest left the retreat they were given a letter to pass on to their own GP detailing the programme, and were encouraged to make an appointment as soon as possible on their return to discuss their future medication requirements."

I suppose it's also a plus that they're not offering live blood microscopy or live blood analysis or anything like that.

I have previously blogged about the company after putting in a complaint about them myself, however this particular complaint and ruling didn't come from me (and I don't know who it came from). Not long after I blogged about about my complaint the owner of the company got in touch and sent me the world's politest email asking if I wouldn't mind taking the post down. Their reason was that because the previous misleading text had now been removed - I was basically blogging 'after the fact' - my record of it wasn't doing them any favours in google as, for some reason, my blog was coming up in the first few pages. 

They were pleasant, agreed that they didn't want to mislead anyone and sounded reasonable so I happily took down the post and the comments with it. Some of the comments had been a bit snarky, but nothing unpleasant, but I said I'd leave the post for another day as I don't think it's fair to take down a post straight after someone's posted a comment disagreeing with me. The post has been down ever since and I've no plans to repost it or mention the company by name although you will easily find it from the link above.

Today's ruling amazed me. The claims were clearly pushing up to the boundaries (I agree it's quite a grey area) and I cannot understand why the company didn't agree to amend things. That way the end result would be 'informally resolved' and the company mentioned on the informally resolved page and that's it. I suppose they were confident that they could provide evidence for the claims and felt that the ASA board would agree, however there's now another page on the internet which highlights misleading claims made and I don't think it's going to be taken down no matter how polite the request. When I googled the company (and bear in mind that Google does personalise stuff) the ASA ruling was on my first page of results.

Since I am feeling kindly disposed towards pleasant people, even if I disagree with their claims, I will remove the company's name from any comments. 

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Is there a 'consultation watch' kind of website?

When scrolling through tweets I often favourite for later ones highlighting a petition I might want to sign or a consultation that I might want to comment on - here are a couple of examples of recent tweets that I posted myself. The first came from the ABPI's mailing list which I'm on, the second was flagged up to me on Twitter.
At some point I wondered if there is such a thing as a Consultations Watch (and perhaps a Petition Watch) that lets me see what's coming up that I might want to contribute to, and I tweeted this.
Clearly it would be a pretty large unwieldy sort of database and I've no idea how you could go about creating such a thing. It would have to account for great big NICE consultations on some new treatment or other intervention and the two consultations linked above, as well as local consultations (eg Lewisham Hospital's A&E for example).  Organisable by date (closing in the next two days, say) and theme (health, politics etc).

Does one already exist? If not, what sort of tools would help create it? Is there much call for it? I don't feel that I've not heard about any consultations that I'd 'need' to hear about, but difficult to tell cos if I've not heard of them I can't know that I've missed them ;)

Edit 8 January 2014
Thanks to a tweet from @bitoclass I have discovered that Transport for London (TfL) has a page of transport-related consultations here

The wonderful (to me, others not keen) newish GOV.UK portal showed me this for local consultations

How can I fix this (can I fix this?)?: Posterous is duplicating my posts

Note that Posterous is shutting down on 30 April 2013

I use Posterous to host the blog / database where I post information about job vacancies in science communication.

It goes like this - I email a post with an attachment (the job description), it publishes itself at and sends a tweet to @ScicommJobs. It's been doing this without incident for just over three years.

Today I realised that for the last couple of days it's been publishing duplicate posts - and sending double tweets as well. I first noticed a problem when I started receiving two 'your post has been published' emails although I didn't think much about it, assuming it to be an email glitch which has happened before.

I've sent a tweet to @Posterous and tried, and failed, to use their online contact form to submit a bug report ('Sorry, we couldn't submit your request' - not sure why).

Googling for info about duplicate Posterous posts isn't particularly illuminating and the problems people have outlined refer to something else entirely.

Is anyone else noticing this with their Posterous blog(s)?

It could well be some setting I've altered in the global 'Spaces' admin bit, although why on earth anyone would want a setting letting them duplicate their posts to the same blog I don't know.

It's also happened on another of my Posterous blogs - where I post audio / sound-related information and events.

If anyone has a solution that would be marvellous :)  Thanks!

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Not the only live blood analyst I've complained about actually

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. 

Edit 14 January 2013 - since writing this post Mr Denton, or one of his supporters, has undertaken something of a smear campaign against me and another blogger, Josephine Jones. I've recently Storified some tweets from a Twitter account (@FightRacism2) which appears to have been set up specifically to promote a link to Mr Denton's petition against us - that petition that has been shut down by several hosts and miraculously re-opened. It now has 1030 signatures, although around 930 of them were paid 5c to sign it.

So far the Storify has had over 8,800 views. Amusingly, a fake petition has also been set up in return ;)

Recently, in one of his blog posts, Errol Denton complained that he was being singled out from other live blood analysts (also known as live blood testing or nutritional microscopy) for particular attention and criticism by bloggers.

He has attributed this particular attention to racism on the part of the bloggers. As I'm one of the bloggers he's tagged in his posts (a sort of oblique reference) I'm a bit bemused by this because the simple reason he's experiencing attention is that he failed to respond to the Advertising Standards Authority's requests to remove misleading claims from his websites, and consequently found himself on their 'non-compliant online advertisers' page. It has nothing to do with the colour of anyone's skin.
  I thought it might cheer him up to know that back in May I also put in a complaint about a live blood microscopist who turns out to be white (and no, I didn't single her out because of her skin colour either) - Katrin Hempel []. I've reproduced the complaint in full below.

Normally I prefer not to publish these complaints before there's been an ASA adjudication (which I'd be notified about, I don't remember this one being adjudicated on and I checked a couple of pages and some of the claims are still there). However since Errol is so convinced that I and another blogger, Josephine Jones, are racially motivated I'm quite keen to address that as best I can.

What I need to do next is chase up exactly what happened with this one** - I have a feeling it may have been deprioritised because of the massive workload the Advertising Standards Authority is under, which only increased when they started investigating claims made on websites in addition to television and radio broadcasts, and magazine adverts and leaflet inserts etc.

This complaint was put together with Simon Perry's Fishbarrel tool that saves you having to copy and paste each claim into a separate email.

I would also add that it is surprising to me that Errol has tagged his posts with our names and rac15t accusations alongside tags relating to his own company keywords - this seems an odd business strategy. 

**14 January 2013 - the complaint was not adjudicated on (because the ASA has already seen sufficient evidence that live blood analysis is nonsense) and instead was passed to compliance. When that failed Katrin Hempel's London Natural Therapies site was added to the ASA's list of non-compliant advertisers.

Complaint to ASA sent 4 May 2012

Dear ASA

I am concerned about some of the claims made by Katrin Hempel trading as London Natural Therapies and don't believe there is evidence to suppor them. I first became aware of her treatment clinic through a news item in the Evening Standard which highlighted her live blood analysis treatment.

#1. Claim found at

"Live blood analysis can be beneficial for the following conditions:
Arthritis, weakened immune system (recurrent cold - and flu's), gastro-intestinal tract disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory conditions like Chron's disease or ulcerative colitis, leaky gut, as well as allergies, hormonal imbalances, nutritional deficiencies, anemia and many more!"

Live blood analysis is not a real diagnostic technique and does not give as much information about someone's health as is claimed here. The list of conditions includes some really quite serious conditions that are better managed with the help of a proper doctor.

I understand that some nutritional deficiences CAN be spotted (eg anaemia from vitamin B) by looking at blood under a light microscope - but this would still need to be confirmed with a test of serum levels of the relevant B vitamin - however previous experience of live blood analysis suggests to me that this is used as a way to sell expensive and unnecessary vitamins or dietary supplements.

#2. Claim found at

"Live Blood testing can be especially useful in chronic, on-going conditions, that have not responded well to other treatments, as with darkfield microscopy many underlying factors that could be fuelling the condition can be detected, which aren't always evident with other means."

I doubt that live blood testing offers any information that can't be found from a much cheaper (free to the patient) blood test that a proper doctor would order. Again from previously looking into this quite often people are given information that all is not well with their blood based on artefacts that arise during the creation of the slide. Analysts also give incorrect information which is both misleading and worrying to the customer.

#3. Claim found at

"It is an excellent preventative and prophylactic measure as usually changes in the blood can be seen long before the symptoms manifest or progress, so disease may be prevented from developing."

While some changes in the blood may well be apparent before symptoms appear live blood analysis is of no use in determining them. To give an example, a standard blood test for 'glycated haemoglobin' (HbA1c) or fasting blood glucose levels can pick up Type 2 diabetes in someone who otherwise does not have very noticeable (or easily ignorable) symptoms but this is not something that's seen under a microscope.

#4. Claim found at

"Live Blood analysis is also a fantastic tool to use as a general health check-up. A regular examination of your blood every 6 months ensures you stay healthy and nutritional deficiencies can be found out about and corrected early on before problems arise."

I think it's a very poor tool and this just sounds like a way to keep customers coming back to spend more money.

#5. Claim found at

"The iris of your eyes is totally individual and can give important insight into overall health status, constitutional tendencies and metabolic status."

Very limited information about a person's overall health can be gleaned from just looking at the eye or iris. The phrase 'constitutional tendencies' doesn't really mean anything and it's not possible to tell much about someone's metabolic status either. There are a couple of conditions where metals, eg copper in the case of Wilson's disease, are taken up by various tissues of the body, including the iris - and this is quite visible - but generally looking at eyes doesn't tell you much.

#6. Claim found at

"Every organ and tissue of the body is connected to the iris by a vast number of nerve fibres."

This is incorrect.

#7. Claim found at

"with iridology through reflex association signs and marks relating to certain organs in the body are displayed in the iris."

This is nonsense.

#8. Claim found at

"Thus it is ideal to use as preventative tool and can be very valuable to assess treatment plans"

Iridology cannot help here.


#9. Claim found at

"I am using an all natural treatment for sickle cell disease, which has been successfully applied for many years in Germany."

I'm troubled that someone would make claims to be able to help with this serious condition and this statement implies that good evidence for the claims should by now be available.


#10. Claim found at

"This remarkable therapy produces phenomenal results with 50% of patients showing a complete stop of painful episodes (crisis) and 30% of patients showing a marked improvement overall. The treatment strategy will be exclusive to me and will not be used by any other practitioner in the UK."

Two things concern me about this - the boldness of the claims and the fact that only one practitioner will be offering such a treatment. This is fairly unusual and doesn't offer patients much of a choice, it also prevents information about the use of the treatment from being shared among other practitioners and this is something that benefits patients.


I confirm that I have no commercial interest in the outcome of this complaint.

Kind regards,
Jo Brodie

Also known as London Natural Therapies, non-compliant online advertiser 

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Someone is wrong on the internet - diabetes and live blood analysis

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. 

Musical accompaniment for long post: Prodigy - Climbatize

I used to work at Diabetes UK and one of the things I was often called on to do (along with my colleagues) was provide a fairly low level critical appraisal of unproven claims. This isn't the same as the sort of critical appraisal you'd do on a newly published paper, where you'd consider the type of study, the number of people involved (if it was in people), if the conclusions drawn were appropriate and things like that. This was just looking to see if there was any evidence for the slightly odd claims made by people with very colourful websites or glossy adverts.

Often we were asked, by people with diabetes, to look into things that at first glance looked to be utter nonsense. I don't think it's ever useful to dismiss something as nonsense without giving it a 'fair hearing'. Plenty of the people contacting us about some of these items were pretty convinced that they were nonsense but they wanted to hear (a) why it was nonsense (eg what was the evidence for or against) and they were also interested in knowing why (b) no-one seemed to be able to stop these misleading claims. I've never really got to the bottom of (b), I think that will always be with us.

Microscope Carrying Case
A toy microscope, from spike55151 on Flickr
Live blood analysis also known as nutritional microscopy is an example of something that looks and sounds sciencey but for which there's no good evidence. It can't be used to diagnose diseases nor can it be used to determine what their treatment might be. It seems that some of the practitioners are very confused about physiology and even more confused about the use of blood smears in microscopy.

While I've done some basic microscopy in my time (biology degree, worked in various labs) I'm no expert myself so why do I think I can pass judgement on live blood analysis?

Partly it's that it's pretty implausible, but there's also a bit of 'well that's just not true' in the mix as well, and a good portion of evidence from other sources (and some blogs too) that shows how and why it isn't any use.

The reason I think it's important not to just dismiss live blood analysis out of hand is because it would be wrong to say 'well you can't tell anything just by looking at blood', that's obviously not true. Similarly the practice of iridology is nonsense as well but there are some things you can surmise about some people's health just from looking at their eyes.

PHIL Image 15018
Photomicrograph of red blood cells and bacteria (gonorrhea) - the blood has been stained to pick out the bacteria.
Picture source: CDC Public Health Image Library ID #15018, taken by Bill Schwartz, CDC.
Basically, you can spot some stuff in blood smears...

For some time I've been a bit troubled by the claims that Errol Denton has been making for his live blood analysis service which is based in Harley Street. He doesn't appear to be a fan of me either and recently tagged one of his blog posts with my name and the words 'racist nazi blogger' (1). That doesn't really strengthen his case much.

I've written before on the nonsense that is live blood analysis, as have others, so I shan't retread those steps. Today I spotted that Errol had written a blog post about diabetes, my post below is about correcting the misinformation in his post.

(1) see tags at the end of his post, which I prefer not to link to directly requiring you to copy and paste I'm afraid:

Incidentally the tags in the original version of another of his posts did not mention either Josephine or me, or for that matter racist nazi bloggers, though it does now:

Here's a screenshot of the original - click to enlarge. He's insulted us retrospectively ;)

Errol's post can be found here:

Duty Calls
Duty calls, from xkcd

"Diabetes is a growing epidemic in the world with over 150 million sufferers worldwide"
Well, we're off to a reasonably good start in that this figure (unreferenced) is roughly within an order of magnitude of being correct. The IDF Atlas for 2012 estimates the figure to be nearer 366 million people with diabetes worldwide in 2011.

"The answer from the medical fraternity is to create more and more drugs for their victims to consume which only suppresses the symptoms."
I suspect anything I say here will only convince Errol further that I'm a big pharma shill (I'm actually paid by the taxpayer) so I will acknowledge that there is indeed a great deal of medication going on of people with diabetes. I'm not sure what he means by 'only suppresses the symptoms' - the drugs suppress symptoms of high blood glucose levels by helping glucose to be taken up and used... I'm not quite sure what is meant here.

"With the NHS spending 3.9 Billion on Diabetes care but yet 24,000 die needlessly each year isn’t it time to look at Errol Denton’s safe natural alternative using live blood testing?"
Goodness me. Diabetes UK's key statistics on diabetes suggests that it's probably nearer £10 billion on diabetes care - it's difficult to know where he's getting his figures from as there don't seem to be any references. I think the 24,000 comes from the York & Humber Public Health Observatory (YHPHO)'s 2008 publication on 'diabetes attributable deaths' which did suggest that, in England "26,300 deaths between the ages of 20 and 79 years in 2005 can be attributed to diabetes" so that's pretty close. The registered deaths for diabetes in England and Wales tend to hover around the 5-6,000 mark but these are an underestimate and only include registrations where diabetes has been listed (diabetes can be a contributory factor but people tend to die of something else, although there is space on death certification to record contributory factors).

Edit: 7 Nov 2012 - pal at Diabetes UK has pointed out that 24,000 is actually a perfectly reasonable figure as it's cited by the fab NHS IC.

The final clause suggesting that it's time to look at his 'safe natural alternative' is not at all contingent on the earlier clauses outlining the scale of the problem. Yes, diabetes is crap, but live blood testing doesn't do anything to help. I'd definitely concede that if someone is given the advice to improve their lifestyle that'll help, but they don't need to spend any money on this (or buy expensive supplements) as that service is available completely free from their doctor or dietitian.

"Errol Denton says this is complete nonsense as Diabetes is not actually a disease it is simply caused by poor nutrition."
I'm not sure if Errol writes his blog in the third person or if someone else writes it but this statement is a bit of an oversimplification. For starters I think the author really needs to clarify that they're talking about Type 2 diabetes as opposed to Type 1 diabetes. But I won't deny that nutrition plays a role - this isn't a big secret and any doctor will tell you that lifestyle (which includes nutrition, though not to the exclusion of physical activity, good night's sleep etc) is important in managing the condition and in preventing the development of Type 2 diabetes.

Blue Tokyo Tower 10
Tokyo Tower lit in blue for World Diabetes Day, from Flickr user Clint Koehler
"He says that there is absolutely no reason that anyone should have to take any medication for this condition if they follow the natural laws of nutrition."
I think this should be much clearer that it is Type 2 diabetes that's being discussed, not Type 1 diabetes which definitely requires insulin to prevent hyperglycaemia and diabetic ketoacidosis. While people with Type 2 diabetes who have made lifestyle changes may sometimes be able to reduce or stop some of their medications (which is fantastic) this statement is a bit un-nuanced and this won't be the case for everyone.

"He asks when was the last time that we saw a Diabetic animal just to make the logical point that is the diet of humans that is at fault."
I once took a call from a zoo vet asking about diabetes in Old or New World Monkeys (I forget which but that was a fun afternoon looking on PubMed). Possibly Errol won't accept diabetes cases in captive animals as they're fed by human beings. It's probably difficult to get the prevalence of diabetes in animals in the wild - if it's Type 1 diabetes the chances are the animals won't survive for very long, although they can probably survive for much longer with Type 2 diabetes - though I suspect that it is probably pretty rare in wild animals anyway.

In captivity the animals can often live for longer and Type 2-like diabetes is more likely to occur spontaneously in older animals.

The rest of the blog post talks about a case study of a man who, after working with Errol was apparently "able to discard all his medication in a very short space of time as he no longer had blood sugar or cholesterol problems."

I hope the decision to come off medication was made after discussions with the man's own doctor - I hope Errol isn't offering anyone medical advice.

His blog's tagline is "Harley Street Natural Health Physician Getting Results Where Conventional Medicine Has Failed" - bit puzzling to use the word physician.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

The MASAUM plague of spammers - academic journals and conferences

For the benefit of anyone else spammed by this MASAUM plague I'm trying to increase information about their spammery on Google.
Avoid, avoid, avoid. Do not give them money.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: Join us as member of Organizing/Technical Program Committee of MASAUM International Conferences on Medical Sciences 2013 in USA,UK,Canada,UAE,Malaysia and Singapore
Date: Sat, 3 Nov 2012 06:25:50 -0400

Dear Colleague

I am glad to inform you that MASAUM Network is going  
to organize  international conferences on Medical Sciences in  
USA,UK,UAE,Canada, Malaysia and Singapore in 2013.

You are invited to join us as member of organizing /  technical  
program committee of these conferences.

Please send us following information as soon as possible.

Full Name with Title(Dr,Mr,Ms etc)
Designation (Professor, Associate Prof, etc)
City and Country:
Research Interest:
Latest Picture:

Please forward this email to interested persons.

Your earlier and positive response will be highly appreciated.


Medical Sciences Section
MASAUM Network
The ones below were perfectly well formatted when they arrived in my inbox but the act of copying and pasting seems to have made them into a bit of a mess, and I'm afraid I can't be bothered to fix them! The text should help anyone searching on Google for phrases found within them though, so should be OK.
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Submission Deadline is November 05,2012: Information Technology Today Series by MASAUM & Applications of Information Technology Today Series by MASAUM
Date: Tue, 23 Oct 2012 05:05:58 -0400

Dear Colleague Your are invited to submit your valuable work to be published as e-book chapter, journal paper and/ or conference paper in MASAUM E-books, MASAUM Journals and MASAUM Conferences respectively. Please visit : For MASAUM E-Books: For MASAUM Conferences: For MASAUM Journals: Title of the Book:Information Technology Today Series by MASAUM Editors: Prof.Dr.Cecelia Wright Brown ,University of Baltimore ,Baltimore, Maryland, USA Prof.Dr. Yu Zhang,School of Engineering ,University of Lincoln, Brayford Pool, Lincoln, UK Dr. Mansaf alam,Department of Computer Science,Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi,India Prof.Dr.Salwani Mohd. Daud, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, ,Malaysia Prof.Dr.Dr. Sami Bourouis,Taif University, College of Computers and Information Technology, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Prof.Dr.Kamel Tourki,Texas A&M University at Qatar,Doha, Qatar Prof.Dr.Imad Jawhar,UAE University,College of Information Technology,Al Ain, UAE Prof.Dr. Mounia ABIK, Laboratoire LAGI,Morrocco Title of the Book:Applications of Information Technology Today Series by MASAUM Editors: Prof.Dr.Ashraf Anwar,University of Atlanta,Atlanta,Georgia,USA Prod.Dr.Ahmad Ghandour,Otago Business School,University of Otago,New Zealand Prof.Dr.Jayesh M Patel, Acharya Motibhai Patel Institute of Computer Studies, Ganpat University,Gujarat, India Prof.Dr.Fariza Hanis Abdul Razak,Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM),Malaysia Prof.Dr.Khidir M. Ali,Computer Science & Engineering Department,Jubail University College,Jubail Industrial City,Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Prof.Dr. Dinesh Kumar Saini,Faculty of Computing and Information Technology ,Sohar University,Sohar, Sultanate of Oman Prof.Dr.Areej Al-Wabil,King Saud University,Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Important Dates for E-Books are: Submission Deadline for Book Chapters: November 05, 2012 Deadline for Acceptance/Rejection Notification: November 15, 2013 Submission of Final Version, Signed CopyRight Form, Publication Fee: November 30, 2012 Tentative Publication Date: Decmeber 30, 2012 Submission Authors are invited to submit their work (enhanced journal/conference /workshop/symposium papers as book chapters or new manuscript as book chapter) in MASAUM Network Paper Template (Upto 10 pages) as an attachment (Doc format) by email to: as well as to with Suject "Submission for " & BOOK-TITLE The suggested instructions to follow for the MASAUM Net format are available at: For more Information, Please Contact: as well as to chapter.submission NOTE:If you would like to publish an e-book with MASAUM, please visit Please forward this to concerned persons. Regards; B. Tim Lowder, Coordinator Ebooks Section MASAUM Network
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: Join us as Book Editor
Date: Sun, 16 Sep 2012 23:34:27 -0400

Dear Colleague 
It is honor and pleasure for me to inform you that MASAUM has planned to publish some useful e-books in 2012. 
You can find information about ebooks to be published by MASAUM at 
You are invited to join us editor of the ebook.
If you are interested to join us please send us following information before/on September 25,2012. 
1.Serial Number & Title of the ebook. 
4.Editor's Full Name, Designation, Affiliation, Contact Details, Areas of Interest in Research 
Note: Please visit following: 
For MSAUM Conferences: 
For MASAUM Journals: 
For MASAUM E-Books: 
Your earlier and positive response will be highly appreciated. 


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Submission Deadline is September 30,2012: MASAUM International Conference on Information Technology 2013 (MICIT '13) January 01-03,2013, Dubai United Arab Emirates
Date: Sun, 16 Sep 2012 02:48:22 -0400

Dear Colleague --------------------------------------------------------------------- 
 *** Our apologies if you receive multiple copies of this CFP *** --------------------------------------------------------------------- CALL FOR PAPERS MASAUM International Conference on Information Technology 2013 (MICIT ?13) January 01-03,2013, Dubai United Arab Emirates Organized & Technically Co-Sponsored by MASAUM Network --------------------------------------------------------------------- Paper submission deadline: September 30, 2012 (extended) Call For Paper: --------------------------------------------------------------------- We cordially invite you to submit research paper(s) to the MASAUM International Conference on Information Technology 2013 (MIC-IT '13),will be held on January 01-03, 2013 at Dubai, United Arab Emirates and will be organized and technically co-sponsored by MASAUM Network. Previous Conference: MASAUM International Conference on Information Technology 2012 (MIC-IT'12) was held on July 27-29, 2012 at Liverpool, UK. MASAUM International Conference on Information Technology 2013 (MIC-IT'13) is a three-day conference aiming to provide a forum for academics, practitioners, consultants and students to debate current international issues and challenges in the broad area of Information Technology. All accepted papers will be published in the conference proceedings published by MASAUM Network. Proceedings of MIC-IT '13 will also be published online. FOR THOSE WHO CANNOT ATTEND CONFERENCE AT DUBAI,ONLINE SPECIAL SESSIONS WILL BE CONDUCTED.THIS WILL SAVE TIME AND EXPENSES. THOSE WHO CANNOT ATTEND THE CONFERENCE BUT WILLING TO CHAIR A SESSION/WORKSHOP OF A CONFERENCE, CAN ORGANIZE A SESSION/WORKSHOP AT THEIR DEPARTMENT. There will be three types of sessions in MICIT '13,Regular Sessions, Online Sessions and Remote Sessions. Regular Session: Session will be organized in MICIT '13 , Dubai, UAE ONLINE Session: Session will be conducted online using web conferencing tools and presenters will present from their homes/offices. Remote Session: Session(mini conference) will be hosted and conducted in the parent department of the session organizer and presenter will present their paper there. All accepted papers will be published in the conference proceedings published by MASAUM Network .Proceedings of MIC-IT '13 will also be published online .The conference proceedings will be published by MASAUM Network. Proceedings will be sent to ISI, EI Compendex, ELSEVIER, SCOPUS ACM, ISTP,AMS, ACS,EBSCO,Engineering Village / Engineering Index (EI),DOAJ,Library of Congress,British Library,Electronic Journals Library,Scholargoogle,DBLP and several more international indexes. Enhanced versions of accepted papers will be published by: MASAUM Journal of Computer Science MASAUM Journal of Engineering and Applied Sciences Selected Papers will be published in INFORMATION, An International Interdisciplinary Journal,Published by International Information Institute, Tokyo, Japan,Indexed by SCIE, JCP/SE, MR, ZM and JDreamII and having Impact factor 0.99 Topics (30 Tracks) Topics of interest include, but are not limited to the following: Track 1. Mobile and Ubiquitous Computing Track 2. Dependable, Reliable and Autonomic Computing Track 3. Security and Trust Management Track 4. Multimedia Systems and Services Track 5. Networks and Communications Track 6. Database and Data Mining Track 7. Game and Software Engineering Track 8. Grid, Cloud ,Scalable Computing and their Applications Track 9. Embedded System , Software and Applications Track 10.Artificial Intelligence Track 11.Distributed and Parallel Techniques and Practices Track 12.Web and Internet Computing Track 13.IT Policy and Business Management Track 14. Semantic Web and Web Services Track 15.Software Engineering Research and Practice Track 16. Modeling, Simulations and Visualization Methods Track 17. Image Processing , Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition Track 18. Information and Knowledge Engineering Track 19. Wireless Networks Track 20. Internet Computing Track 21. Genetics and Evolutionary Methods Track 22. Frontier in Education: Computer Science and Computer Engineering Track 23. Foundations of Computer Science Track 24. E-learning, E-business, E-commerce and E-government Track 25. Scientific Computing Track 26. Computer Graphics and Virtual Reality Track 27. Computer Design Track 28. Bio Informatics and Computer Biology Track 29. Health Informatics Track 30. Data Warehouse and Knowledge Warehouse Submissions Authors are invited to submit their work in MASAUM Network Paper Template (less than 6 pages) as an attachment (Doc format as well as Pdf) by email to: as well as to with subject "Submissions for MIC-IT 2013" Important Dates Paper Submission Deadline: September 30,, 2012 Author Notification: October 10, 2012 Registration Deadline: October 30,2012 Camera Ready Paper Submission Deadline: October 30,2012 Financial Support Finacial support is provided to authors of the developing countries. Financial support is provided to those , who have been invited to contribute and present a paper at MICIT '13 . There are three types of financial support : 1. Presenters of the papers are provided assistance up to 50 per cent, of the airfare (to and fro excursion/economy class) 2. University faculty members are eligible for assistance up to 50 per cent of the total cost travel plus maintenance . 3. Students/Scholars from develoing countries,are eligible for 100 per cent travel cost and 50 per cent maintenance provided they are unable to secure grants from any other source. How to Apply for Financial Support Please send following information to before October 15,2012 Title of the Paper: Paper Id: Full Name: Sex: Date of Birth: Detailed Bio-Data Designation/Student: Department: University/Institute: City & Country: HAVE YOU EVER RECEIVED OR ARE CURRENTLY RECEIVING ANY FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE FROM ANY DONOR AGENCY? (Please give full details) Conference Genral Co-Chair Prof.Dr.R K Mittal, Director,Department of Computer Science,BITS Pilani, Dubai Campus,Dubai, UAE Prof.Dr.Rosli Abu Bakar,Fakulti kejuruteraan Mekanikal,Universiti Malaysia Pahang,Pekan, Pahang, Malaysia Conference Program Chair Prof.Raj Jain, Fellow of IEEE, Fellow of ACM, Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, Washington University in St. Louis,St.Louis,USA Prof.Hyunsung Kim, Dept. of Cyber Security, Kyungil University,Kyungsan, South Korea For More Information, Please Contact Ms.Shiella Nancy, Secretary MIC-IT '13 Note: Please visit following: For MSAUM Conferences: For MASAUM Journals: For MASAUM E-Books: Regards; MASAUM Team

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Jonathan Glazer makes amazing adverts

I was just looking at Film4's list of 30 Films for 30p which they're making available each day for people to rent in celebration of reaching their 30 year milestone (congrats!).

One of the films is Sexy Beast directed by Jonathan Glazer which I'm looking forward to renting on 25 November. But apart from his other film (the massively underrated Birth, 2004) he's possibly slightly more known to me for his work in adverts, which are amazing and likely to be very familiar to anyone reading this.

Here are some favourites.

VW Polo - Protection, featuring the Faure requiem

Guiness Surfer

Stella Artois - Ice skating priests

There's a much better resolution version available here but I didn't know how to embed it.

Here's the opening sequence to his film Birth, gorgeously shot and with music from Alexandre Desplat - it's a beautiful opening. Jad Abumrad of my favourite radio show (Radiolab) is also rather taken with it.

More info at

Edit 29 Nov 2017
OK, not entirely sure about this one, though it certainly is spectacular ;)

None of these articles about medical devices inspired much confidence

By coincidence I happen to have read three articles recently relating to issues with medical devices or products and all of them have been from the same company though I don't particularly mean to single them out.

To be fair the articles span a year and of the three articles mentioned I'd already read two of them when first published.

The reason why I read two of these articles again so recently is that I gave a short science communication lecture earlier this week to some first year computer science / electronic engineering (some are also doing maths / business studies etc) students on writing for scientists or for non-specialists.

One of the things I wanted to highlight (exceptionally briefly) was an aspect of stories about technology. Sometimes they're just about informing you of some new gadget, sometimes it's a 'hooray for tech, any minute now we'll be flying around in jetpacks' and sometimes it's "DOOM!!!".

Doom stories can warn you against doing something (or against failing to do something) - incidentally I assume all tech stories about Facebook are now doom ones - or they might encourage you to take action and ask companies to increase encryption etc.

As I was speaking on Hallowe'en I picked some doom stories to share and realised that two of my four favourite examples mentioned the same company. Of course two of them didn't, and they're below.

1. Paula Rooney GNOME's Sandler: is there a killer in the code? (25 September 2011)
Karen Sandler was diagnosed with a heart condition that required her to use an implantable defibrillator. Coincidentally she was also working as an attorney with the Software Freedom Law Center. She wanted to see / check the code which ran the device but didn't get very far in persuading the company to let her view the code (she even offered to sign a non-disclosure agreement).
"I offered to sign an NDA ... I don't want to rely on Medtronics for something as essential as my heart."
The article also references a report that the SFLC wrote which suggests that, between 1997 and 2003 there were 212 deaths that had arisen from device failures occurring in implantable medical devices from several companies.

2. Jordan Robertson McAfee hacker says Medtronic insulin pumps vulnerable to attack  (29 February 2012) 
At the time this article was published I was working at Diabetes UK but left in May so I don't know if they were able to find out any more information from the company about the potential for hacking into insulin pumps. To be honest it's going to be pretty rare - you'd need a fairly unusual set of circumstances (nerdy person, ideally with murderous intent, the right equipment and skills + person with diabetes wearing a pump nearby) but as far as I can gather this is not a hoax.

3. John Fauber Medtronic Helped Write, Edit Positive 'Infuse' Spine Studies (25 October 2012)
This one turned up today in my 'subscriptions from Posterous' email and involves a bone graft device with a "biologically engineered protein to coax bone growth. The device is widely used in surgeries to fuse or join two vertebrae together to stabilize the spine."

In these reports Medtronic is accused of writing overly favourable articles about their product, with the usual ghost writing goings on (ideal for Hallowe'en).

Referenciness - the four examples of doom.

Rooney P (25 September 2011) GNOME's Sandler: is there a killer in the code? Available at [accessed 24 October 2012]

Robertson J (29 February 2012) McAfee hacker says Medtronic insulin pumps vulnerable to attack. Available at [accessed 24 October 2012]

Giles J (18 October 2012) Wireless meters tell snoopers when you are not home. New Scientist Available at [accessed 24 October 2012]

Lythe R (15 August 2012) 'My £7,000 just vanished': how a slip of a finger could cost your life savings. Daily Mail Available at [accessed 24 October 2012]