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

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Lovely things about graphic design which I enjoyed reading

Thanks to spotting a tweet from @simon_frantz I have just caught up with a brilliant article @stevesilberman wrote in 2012 celebrating the design work of Susan Kare. She was called in to work with Apple to create the icons and images that would help users find their way around a Mac's graphical user interface (GUI). She bought herself a pad of plain gridded paper and drew some images - each square a pixel - creating literally iconic designs that embedded themselves into our consciousness. Mouse pointers (hands), dustbins ('trash'), smiling Macs. I read the article with little gasps of delight, and recognition.

This also made me think about another lovely article on graphic design written by Dean Vipond a couple of years ago. He's a graphic designer who had to tweak a presentation he was giving to primary school children when he discovered they were reception class age (4-5) rather than 9/10. His beautiful essay "Explaining graphic design to four year olds" on how he distilled his work as a graphic designer into a talk that is wholly relatable to small children is wonderful and elicited the same gasps of delight and enthusiastic Twitter sharing as Steve's article will - when more people are awake tomorrow today and I can share it with them :)

It also reminded me of a tweet from @Pmarber (Patrick) I remember seeing in passing and making a note of so that I could go to the exhibition at the Jewish Museum (which is on until April 2018). It highlights the work of émigré designers one of whom is his cousin, Romek Marber, who created the layout for Penguin books according to the 'Marber grid'. Coincidentally the day of writing this blog post is also the Holocaust Memorial Day and on Googling Romek Marber I discovered that he had written a book about his own escape from the Nazis: "No Return: Journeys in the Holocaust". On further searching I found a really interesting archived review of his book from the Eye magazine (whose tweets about another unrelated event are below).

And, slightly different, but also a fun read / view - graphic designers take their most useless client feedback and turn it into these fantastic posters. This series of posters was exhibited in a café in Ireland and A3 copies were sold, raising money for a local hospital.

A lovely evening out with my friend Scott at St Bride's was for one of their TypeTuesdays, celebrating typefaces and all things font. This particular one was on trains 'Trains and fonts and double arrows' and it was GREAT. Or fontastic, sorry. See more tweets about this below to give a flavour.

Bonus inexplicable design
I remember the original Foyles bookshop on Charing Cross Road. They had a peculiar system in place that must have made sense to someone, though not to shoppers. Foyles "retained the extraordinary Moscow-style triple queueing system: customers had to line up to receive a chit, then again to pay at an Edwardian-style till, then once more to collect the book from where they had started." (quote from FT). They also had single-width escalators which I loved.

Vapiano is a German chain of restaurants which serves delicious Italian food. You queue to get your food which is prepared in front of you, then sit and eat it. This system does not work well if you are with one other friend and you want to secure a table. One of you has to stay and stop your stuff getting pinched while the other queues, then swap - the result is that you both have a delicious meal about 10 minutes apart. If I ever go there again (the food was nice) I'll either go by myself and take pot luck or gather together a posse of chums to offset the delayed serving times. Reviews of the restaurant (while praising the excellent food) tend to use the word 'weird' a lot.

Trains and fonts and double arrows - St Bride's Foundation, 22 Nov 2016

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

[Solved] Old neuroscience event on amusia (being unmusical) at the RSM - anyone know more?

The event was a 'Music and Medicine' student-led academic meeting at the RSM and the details are preserved in this archived copy of diary pages of February 2007 when the event took place. In fact I did hear of it through the psci-com list, I didn't find it when searching as 'amusia' wasn't mentioned in the email to the list.

Thanks to @davemack for pointing me to Prof Lauren Stewart's Goldsmith's research page, seeing info about amusia in her publications list made it clear that it was her name I should be searching for and finding the event on psci-com meant I could tie the timing down for a more productive search in the archives.

Years ago... I think it was before 2010 as I think my mum was still alive... Dad and I went to a really lovely and interesting evening event at the Royal Society of Medicine on Wimpole Street. Pretty sure that's where it was. It was a talk by someone who'd been doing research on amusia (lack of music, really struggling with pitch and melody), with a neuroscience focus. At the end the speaker and another medical person gave a short musical performance - a violin was involved I think but the memories are fading.

The talk was fascinating. The researcher showed us video clips of her research with members of a family in Ireland who were enthusiastic about music. The family included a man who was keen on music like the rest of his family but had always lacked any ability with it. He composed tunes - they were as unmusical as you'd expect but he seemed to derive a lot of pleasure from it.

People born with (congenital) amusia cannot recognise a musical tune and struggle with musical pitch but don't seem to have a problem with pitch in speech, or with prosody (rhythm and emphasis / intonation in speech). It seems to be very specific. People can also acquire amusia following a brain injury.

I don't think this was the researcher who presented (no mention of an Irish family, though I suppose it's possible my memory is incorrect!)
The Genetics of Congenital Amusia (Tone Deafness): A Family-Aggregation Study (2007)
Anyway I'd love to know who gave the presentation and when the event was. As it was probably 2009 or earlier I think the relevant page on the RSM's website has disappeared. Here are the strategies I've used to try and find out more, so they can be discounted.

Google search - restricted by year - no joy, also tried earlier years.

Royal Society of Medicine website search on the Internet Archive - I've crawled backwards through 2009 to 2007 but not found anything yet. Perhaps it was before 2007 (entirely possible) but the website hasn't been captures.

Psci-com mailing list (I thought the talk might have been advertised here, but no) - searched for amusia and music wimpole.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Dion Freeview box from Tesco - I am not a fan

It's been years since I've done a product review on this blog (I don't buy many devices, admittedly) so this is a bit of an outlier I suppose.

About a year ago I bought a Dion Freeview box in the hope that I'd be able to get additional Freeview channels, such as Talking Pictures, some extra +1 channels not available on my current system and also the HD channels. A few weeks ago I swapped the two boxes over.

Since then I have discovered that as I have an old fashioned non-flat cathode-ray tube (CRT) television with one SCART socket and one aerial socket (and that's it) perhaps my options were probably always going to be limited - I don't get any extra channels.

Either the age of the television or the aerial means that it was a waste of money (it wasn't expensive) and I have the same channels that I already have, so I am going to switch back to the old one, perhaps when I've finished watching Pride & Prejudice. 

No extra channels is only mildly annoying, in that nothing's been improved, but there is something more annoying.

Since I swapped the boxes I've been irritated by an almost constant pop up alert on screen asking if I want to search. This appears randomly, but when it starts up it appears every 30 seconds (and stays on screen for 10 seconds). Surely if I do nothing the system should assume I don't want to search and dismiss itself, sadly this doesn't happen.

Online forums suggest doing a 'first installation' but clearly I did that when I installed it a few weeks ago. I've let it check for new channels (sometimes the message is 'LCN has changed') but this has made no difference.

The Dion Freeview box from Tesco is therefore unusable if you want to WATCH television (I often use Freeview to listen to Radio 4 (though you can't do that on this box) so don't care so much what's happening on the screen then) and so I cannot recommend it.

It is currently interefering with my enjoyment of Colin Firth's Mr Darcy so I'm mightily peeved, hence moved to write a blog post bleating about it.

I very rarely replace a product with a new one if the old one is still working (very glad I kept the old one!) so let this be a lesson to me. Next time I'll do more research :)

If you have a Dion DTR250SS10 or PSTB1AW09+ click on the links to read or download their manuals.