Mis establos!!!

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'.

I work on the EPSRC-funded @CHI_MED project; all views are my own. I used to work at Diabetes UK (until 22 June 2012) as a Science Information Officer (effectively a science-specialist librarian but not quite a clinical librarian). Before that it was ScienceLine and back in the mists of time it was lipid chemistry & neuroscience.

Contact: @JoBrodie or reconfigure this email address me.meeeee @ gmail.com (replace me and meeeee with obvious letters, eg... jo.brodie@ etc).

Oh OK then it's jo dot brodie at gmail dot com

Monday, 20 October 2014

How to export your Twitpic pics

First Twitpic was shutting down, then it wasn't, now it is. We've got until 25 October 2014 to request copies of any photos posted there (remember you may not have posted pics there manually, but by having Twitpic set as the default photo handling app within whichever Twitter app you're using on your smartphone / tablet).




Your Twitpic page is easy to find (to be honest I think everyone has one by virtue of being on Twitter, something that initially puzzled everyone but we soon came round), it's
http://twitpic.com/photos/yourtwittername so mine is http://twitpic.com/photos/JoBrodie

How to download your pics

You can download your pics by clicking this link: Get your Twitpic pics, then logging in by authorising via Twitter, then scrolling down the resulting page (past Mobile, Privacy, Linked Accounts and Delete Account) to Export your photos, then click on the green button saying request your data - it looks like this.


Once clicked it will start processing and you'll see this - I don't know yet how long this will take (presume it depends on the number of your photos).


If you want to be helpful / annoying, search for Twitpic on Twitter and filter it by people you know (you can only do this on Twitter dot com) and then tell them to do this.


Background reading
Twitpic is shutting down post updated in October (4 September 2014) Twitpic blog (same as linked above).


Sunday, 19 October 2014

Cancer Act 1939 convictions in the UK

You are welcome (encouraged!) to repost this. If you know of other cases please tell me, thanks.


As its name suggests the Cancer Act 1939 (legislation | Wikipedia) has been around for over 70 years. I don't know how many people have had a conviction under this act (I don't know where best to search for the more historic information) but from what I can tell it's not been much used... until quite recently.

Image from page 46 of "Nostrums and quackery; articles on the nostrum evil and quackery reprinted, with additions and modifications, from The Journal of the American Medical Association" (1914)

Until a year or two ago I was only aware of a handful of cases that had been tried under the Act with one or two convictions and fines but, thanks to an MP's question in Parliament, I've learned that there have been 21 cases brought under the Act since 1984 (I don't know how many of them resulted in a conviction and fine though).

This year alone has seen three convictions (that I'm aware of), which is quite surprising. Two were brought to court by Westminster Trading Standards and one by Essex Trading Standards.

Westminster Trading Standards, 2014

Trading Standards: cancer cure claims prosecuted (23 July 2014) Westminster Trading Standards
Article discusses two cases. The fine for the first case was £9,000, court costs £9,821 plus victim surcharge of £100 (total £18,921). Following an appeal it seems that this has been reduced to £4,500. The fine for the second case was £1,750 with costs of £2,500 and a victim surcharge of £120 (total £4,370).

First case
Harley Street practitioner claimed he could cure cancer and HIV with lifestyle changes and herbs, court hears (11 December 2013) The Telegraph

Bogus doctor claimed he could cure cancer using herbs, avocado and grape seeds (10 October 2014) ITV
Refers to the £4,500 fine, which I've assumed is a reduction in the original but could actually be additional.

Second case
Bodybuilder turned Harley Street nutritionist fined for claiming he could CURE cancer with diet and fitness techniques (6 May 2014) Daily Mail

Essex Trading Standards, 2014

Man is fined after selling "cancer cure" which he made at home (15 September 2014)
One case, the fine was £750 and costs were £1,500. The fake treatment was colloidal silver. This was the second time the man had been prosecuted by Trading Standards (the first in September 2013), more at Essex Trading Standards newsletter (page 3).

Previous cases, 1994, 1995/6, 2000, 2009, 2010

British company fined for falling foul of Cancer Act (15 January 1994) BMJ 1994;308:158
Fine was £500 and costs £3,500. Welsh company, case heard in Whitminster. (Yes it's definitely Whitminster, not Westminster or other typo, I checked).

Trading standards prosecute after "cancer relief" claims (January 1996) HealthWatch newsletter #20
Report on a case from 21st November 1995, at Camberwell Magistrates Court. Southwark Trading Standards Service brought the case against a man who claimed his medical device could be of use to people undergoing cancer treatment. Fine was £3,500 and costs of £200.
Big fine for 'lethal' cancer machine claims (7 November 2000) CWN (news for Coventry & Warwickshire)
Reports on company directors fined £14,500 with additional costs (separately and combined as the company) under several pieces of legislation including the Cancer Act 1939.

Meeting with Cabinet Member - Communities (17 August 2009) Derbyshire County Council
A report on completed prosecutions under trading standards legislation which includes, on page 3 information about a company fined £800 for breaching Food Labelling Regulations and claiming to cure cancer. A news report [Breaston firm fined for illegal claims (9 March 2009) This is Nottingham] suggested that the total fined was higher: £2,000 fine and £2,235 costs.

Dursley woman pleads guilty over ‘magick’ cancer remedy (3 August 2009) Stroud News & Journal
Fine information not given but costs were £1,100

'Miracle' healer who claimed to be able to cure cancer in £30 sessions fined £2,600 (15 March 2010) Daily Mail
Fine was £600, costs £2,000 with £15 victim surcharge.

Image from page 65 of "Nostrums and quackery; articles on the nostrum evil and quackery reprinted, with additions and modifications, from The Journal of the American Medical Association" (1914)


Cancer Act 1939 as a deterrent, 2009/10, 2012

As reported in a handful of blogposts it seems that occasionally Trading Standards will contact organisations and individuals and ask them to remove problematic words or phrases from their marketing material. This suggests that 'breaching' the Cancer Act 1939 results in a series of events before any court proceedings are begun, and that people / orgs who comply with requests from Trading Standards will not be fined.

The Cancer Act 1939 (date not obvious to me, assume 2009 / 2010) Cancer U Can blog
Indicates that the blogger was contacted by Trading Standards with a recommendation to make some changes to the text to avoid a £1,000 fine. The blogger agreed not to refer to cancer in a six week course they were running about the therapies that apparently helped them to recover and changed its name to 'Transforming Serious Diseases'.

Caught in the Act (9 July 2012) WDDTY
Recommendations from Trading Standards resulted in the name change of a book from Cancer Handbook to Cancer Book.

Alternative cancer conference banned by town council (15 May 2012) The Healthy Home Economist
The article's author is highly miffed that the event was banned and includes mutterings about medical fascism and the possibility of a grave-spinning Winston Churchill.

Note that many people who respond to cancer-related queries from Trading Standards and amend their material will not show up in internet searches - these are the equivalent of the Advertising Standards Authority's 'informally resolved' cases. Anecdotally I've heard that some companies have stopped trading / closed their website, but I don't have any details on this so can't confirm.

Cancer Act mentioned in court but no convictions, 1961, 2004

British Medical Journal - Medico-legal section of the 20 May 1961 issue.

"The fourth charge, of advertisement contrary to the Cancer Act, 1939, was found not proven: offending leaflets had been printed, but there was no evidence of their publication."

Asda fined for mango health claim (26 October 2004) BBC News
The company was fined £5,000 under Food Labelling Regulations 1996: 40 (1) and 44 but a charge under Section 4 (1) of the Cancer Act 1939 was dropped.

Other possible breaches, 2011, 2012

Obviously it is up to a court to determine if someone has actually breached the Cancer Act 1939 but it is usually fairly obvious if someone is skating a bit close towards that point.

Ofcom mulls smackdown for rogue religious TV channel: Ribena is not the blood of Christ and won't cure cancer (23 August 2011) The Register
"Ofcom also points out that anyone watching Believe TV is probably quite gullible, or, as the regulator puts it: "the self selecting audience of Believe TV ... may have been less likely to question the potentially harmful and exploitative content broadcast"." - no mention at all of Trading Standards involvement however.

Undercover probe exposes church offering cancer cure (15 August 2012) Hold the Front Page
No Trading Standards involvement in this example (Victorious Pentecostal Assembly) but the article mentions that the claims made could well be illegal. There are a number of churches which seem to skate close to the CA1939 including those offering miraculous healing oils, miracle mineral solution (now known as master mineral solution - basically bleach). See also on this story: 'Miracle healing': Nigerian pastor lands trouble in UK (22 September 2012) Just Believe blog

Cancer Act-ivism

Shark cartilage in the water: effective legislation is already in place but is not being properly used (9 December 2006) BMJ
"I have now made successful use of this legislation in relation to patients who have used cancer therapies that have been advertised in both the complementary health sector and by registered medical practitioners associated with a registered pharmacy."





Saturday, 18 October 2014

How I prepare presentations for giving talks

by @JoBrodie, brodiesnotes.blogspot.com

This post was originally published as Communicating science face to face – public speaking on 26 April 2009 on my sciencediabetes blog. I've updated it for this blog because I've given a couple of talks this year and am giving another one in a couple of weeks.

The post was written from the perspective of giving talks to supporters while working for a major health charity - I think it's fairly generalisable, but you may want to bear that in mind. All of the below works for me and is how I prepare for my talks. It's not meant to be prescriptive :)



As part of a previous job I was occasionally asked to give presentations on the diabetes research that the charity I worked for funded. I always took this as an opportunity to do a spot of face to face science communication which I enjoy.

I thought I’d share my way of putting a presentation together, in case it’s useful. Although I enjoy giving talks I do get (though I don’t suffer from) the typical nerves beforehand and a lot of my preparation is intended to minimise anxiety by being as well prepared as is humanly possible :)


Image from page 21 of "Catalog of stereopticons, motion picture machines, projection apparatus : manufactured and imported by the McIntosh Stereopticon Company" (1915)

Have you got enough time to prepare the presentation?
A couple of weeks’ notice sounds like plenty of time but may not be sufficient to manage your time for other work – I’d rather say no to giving a talk than turn up with a half-baked presentation.

Who is your audience?
I want to talk about things that are definitely of interest and hopefully of relevance to as many as people in the audience – something for everyone really. Where I previously worked had a number of voluntary groups (support groups which also raise money for research) around the country and if there was a project happening at a local university I would try and include some information about that.

Also if the audience is likely to be a predominantly older crowd then information relevant to children may be less appropriate (though of course some of the audience may have children or grandchildren with the condition [in my talks for work it was diabetes, Jo] so nothing wrong with mentioning it). Similarly a talk to teenagers might focus more on research into future technological developments in diabetes.

Watch out for acronyms and jargon
Many of the people in my audience would have been familiar with diabetes jargon however they may be accompanied by friends or partners who aren’t so it’s worth including an explanation for someone who knows less about diabetes.

In updating this post in 2014 I'd want to add a bit more about jargon. It's not the obviously incomprehensible words and phrases ('mean amplitude of glycaemic excursions') that's the problem as they announce themselves as something that you do or don't understand. More insidious are words like model or theory which have everyday meanings as well as more precise ones in science.

Further reading: Linguistic not-quite-jargon - searching for a word to describe this

Is a PowerPoint (or equivalent) presentation appropriate?
For the sort of talks I give, yes but sometimes telling a story is all that’s needed. I want my slides to do two jobs – underpin my talk’s structure and also to act as an adjunct to what I’m saying.

I try not to put too much information on the slide – but I need enough to remind me what it is I’m talking about (I don’t like speakers’ notes or reading from a script!) and for the audience to have something to look at.

My general rule of thumb is to divide the number of minutes I’m to speak (typically 40) by two to get a ballpark for the number of slides. I’ve most recently given a fifteen to twenty minute talk with seven slides (the first was just a title slide). I might spend longer on one or two slides than others but generally avoid speaking about one slide for less than a minute or more than five minutes. It varies.


Image from page 164 of "Catalogue of stereopticons, dissolving view apparatus, and magic lanterns :with list of several thousand artistically-finished views for the illustration of all subjects of popular interest : manufactured by T.H.McAllister ... New

Telling a story, with or without PowerPoint
It’s a lot easier if the talk has a logical structure and narrative as it’s easier to link between slides and makes the presentation less disjointed. I do spend a bit of time in the ‘editing phase’ trying to make things flow and I will make significant changes to a pre-planned running order if necessary. Sometimes I’m going to talk about entirely separate topics in which case I’ll just make that clear by actually saying, explicitly, to the audience that I’m now going to talk about something quite different.

This can ‘refresh the palate’ of everyone (including you and gives an opportunity to have a sip of water) by changing the pace a bit - but it also acknowledges that what they’re seeing and hearing is different.

When people hear talks, however fantastic they might be, their concentration can waver, particularly if the talk is happening at the end of the day, in a warm room with the lights lowered. If they’re ‘rejoining’ you after a moment’s zoning out it can be disconcerting to find the speaker talking about something else if they’re not sure how it linked to the previous information.

I think it helps to orient people during the talk (it helps me too!), for example something along the lines of “so we’ve heard about W and X and how that leads to Y, let’s now consider Y’s role in leading to Z” – basically a “you are here” guide.

Analogies, metaphors and explanations
I’m talking about complex science / medical things to people who understand all sorts of other complex things but which might happen not to include science or medicine. In other words don’t dumb down.  Ignorance of a topic just means that you don’t know about something, not that you’re stupid. There are plenty of aspects of the topics in my own talk about which I’m ignorant too.

Storing the talk for transfer
Are you going to be working on your talk up to the last minute and bringing it with you on your laptop? If so make sure you bring any VGA adapters ('dongles') for Mac laptops and know how to connect your device to their projector.

Alternatives are to email the talk if it's not too large (if it's huge and you have to send them a link to a download page make sure they've downloaded it in advance of your presentation as the room you're in might not have internet). USB sticks (memory drives) are standard fare, in earlier times I've used CD-ROMs and of course overhead projector acetate sheets. If your slides are going to end up on someone else's network and possibly published make sure you've sorted out copyright of any images.

Main stage of the Palais Garnier, Paris

Rehearsing the talk
I really only feel confident about doing a talk if I’ve rehearsed it a minimum of three times before delivering it – I have no idea if this is normal! I want to become very comfortable with how it flows and not be surprised by anything on the day. Clearly I’m not going to be surprised by the slides themselves, as I’ve written them, but in the process of rehearsal something might occur to me that makes me want to edit the running order or the content.

Rehearsal, for me, isn’t just about getting the ‘performance’ right, but about making sure the content makes sense. This is also the time for me to make a note of what I think people might ask questions about and make sure I can either answer them or am able to signpost them to where they can find out more.

I always practice the talk from a computer, ideally one set up to a projector (we had this facility where I worked) as this is likely to be more similar to the actual talk situation. It’s important to me to have the slides appearing behind me so I can get the ‘stage directions’ right for the talk as well – I may need to move towards thescreen  to illustrate something by pointing at it (I prefer to go and point with a finger where possible but this depends on the angle of the projector and whether or not by doing this you’d block the picture out! Laser pointers are good though) and then come back to the laptop / computer to advance the presentation to the next slide.

I will happily do paper based practices, and on a computer without a projector attached of course but really prefer to do at least one ‘final’ version on a projector. (When I did presentations on overhead projection facilities using acetate sheets then I focused on practising with paper as it was more similar to the real-life scenario).

Image from page 32 of "The little pruning book; an intimate guide to the surer growing of better fruits and flowers" (1917)

Polishing the presentation
For longer talks, once I’ve run through the entire presentation a couple of times and have created the ‘patter’ that goes with it, I record myself giving the talk so that I can listen to it later. I use the voice memo function on my iPhone. Possibly this is ‘overkill’ but I like to hear where the talk is flowing well and less well and make mental edits to the talk for later.

By the end of this process I know the substance of my talk off by heart but I don’t have a formal script – I’m not a fan of scripted talks. I have all the phrases I’m likely to use at the front of my mind but the exact words will vary of course.

The final thing I like to do is to print out my slides (and to save paper, I print them as handouts so I can get 2 or more on a page) and go through them to make sure that I know, for each slide, the slide that comes before and next to help with linking between slides. It’s easy enough to put up a slide and start talking about it, but I think it’s nice to be able to introduce the next slide from within the previous one. This is usually the last thing I do, typically on the train to the venue (a lot of the talks I used to give were in the evening), which brings me nicely to my next point.


Image from page 253 of "The street railway review" (1891)

Getting to the venue
Obviously this bit isn’t specific to giving talks, and works for any kind of meeting where you have to go somewhere else to have it!

A minimum of a week before the talk I’ll have confirmed the details with the person organising the meeting, googled anything I need to know and found answers to these questions.
  • who is the audience? [I've usually asked this earlier as it will also determine the talk content]
  • what day and time is the talk?
  • what train station do I need tickets for – any info on which exit to choose? (Yes, I have been standing at exit A with the person fetching me at exit B in a mobile-signal desert)
  • where is the actual venue (postal address and any bus info or taxi instructions?
  • what hotels are available nearby?
  • what are the train times like?
I’ll also have with me, on one or two pieces of paper, any maps (of the venue, the directions to the hotel) and details of train times and contact details of anyone I’m meeting.

After all that I’ll have a nice sleep!

Feedback
I've never formally evaluated the types of talks I've given but feedback comes in many forms - including people asking questions during the talk or staying behind to ask afterwards. Lots of people have told me that they've enjoyed one of my talks or have understood something better - but I'd have to assume the people who thought I was rubbish or that my talk made no sense left without saying so ;) I've never had anything disastrous happen but in all cases I've been well-enough prepared to be able to talk for at least half an hour without any props and the knowledge that I can do this is a reasonable confidence boost.




Tuesday, 14 October 2014

How to turn two columns in Excel into one without losing contents - concatenate not merge

To be honest I'd assumed the Merge function would sort that out, but no, it creates a single cell from two cells but deletes the content of one and so leaves you with half of your information. Merge is not the function you're looking for.

It turns out that it's Concatenate.

Here's a picture of what I had and what I wanted.


Obviously my first port of call was Twitter.




I used the second suggestion and it worked, hooray.







Short Task - where people ask you to do random things for tiny amounts of money

Short Task is an odd website, similar to Amazon's Mechanical Turk and it is full of people making strange requests of other people for small cash payments.

This one's pretty specific (click to enlarge). It wants you to go to Google and search for "non slip rug pad ruglock spray" and say the name of the video and the product's price on Amazon. For this you get 7 cents. Obviously doing this involves running a search which presumably increases Google's indexing of this product but isn't that a strange advertising strategy?!