Humour

Neanderthals would have made good doctors..

by reestheskin on 13/06/2018

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I posted this awhile back, but it still makes me smile. I wrote:

Well my knowledge of Neanderthals is rather limited to the work showing that some of them would likely had red hair. But now a reviewer (Clive Gamble) in Nature of a book on Neanderthals states that

Wynn and Coolidge conclude that today, Neanderthals would be commercial fishermen or mechanics, based on their enormous strength and ability to learn the motor procedures needed. Their capacity for empathy might even have made them competent physicians, the authors say, although a lack of mathematical ability means that they would never have been able to graduate from medical school. Neanderthals would also make excellent army grunts, with their high levels of pain tolerance, and would be good tacticians in small combat units. They would never rewrite the tactical manual — although tearing it up, however thick, would not be a problem.

Link

Max Schrems: the man who took on Facebook — and won

by reestheskin on 09/05/2018

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Great story. Only true.

Schrems sent the complaints to the Irish data protection commissioner in Portarlington, a town with a population of 8,000. From a modest office above a supermarket, the Irish DPC was responsible for regulating all the tech companies that nominated their Dublin-based subsidiaries as “data controllers”. Despite its role protecting millions of EU citizens, the commissioner had just 26 staff at the time.

FT

This all reminds me of that wonderful scene in the film Local Hero when the visitors from the US mega corporation discover that the same person (played by Denis Lawson) runs the bar, hotel, office, professional services etc. in the small Scottish village where it is set.

BTW: instead of the mandatory GDPR corporate training, can we just not watch Local Hero again?

Performance management in the real world

by reestheskin on 02/05/2018

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Stalin, Krushchev and Brezhnev are riding on a train when it suddenly stops. Stalin says “Comrades we must execute the driver to motivate the others”. The poor driver is dragged out into the snow and shot. the train still doesn’t move. Krushchev says “Comrades, we have made a dreadful error. We must set this thing straight and rehabilitate the poor driver.” So the driver is posthumously rehabilitated. Still the train doesn’t move. “Listen”, says Brezhnev, “The solution is obvious. Let’s pull down the curtains, bounce up and down on the seats and pretend the train is moving”.

Nail in the coffin

by reestheskin on 16/04/2018

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And third, the internet is disrupting death as it has life. Comparison sites shed light on funeral providers’ services. And though not many bereaved relations yet “bring their own coffin”, a quick browse online gives people a far better idea of what it should cost. Startups are offering more radical disruption: rocket-launches for ashes; QR codes on graves linked to online tributes; new ways of disposing of bodies besides burying or burning.

I like that you can now go ‘direct’. Purgatory is now optional.

Economist.

Slow service

by reestheskin on 05/04/2018

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On keeping a straight face

by reestheskin on 22/03/2018

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“It’s hard to keep a straight face and conduct professional conversations about finite element modelling or soil strength profiles when I’m in a site office surrounded by pictures of naked women.”

From a review of: Built: The Hidden Stories Behind Our Structures, Roma Agrawal Bloomsbury, 2018. 308 pp.

Reviewed in Science

Ebbinghaus redux

by reestheskin on 19/03/2018

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Ebbinghaus link

The neoteny of misery

by reestheskin on 16/03/2018

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Dr. Santos speculated that Yale students are interested in the class because, in high school, they had to deprioritize their happiness to gain admission to the school, adopting harmful life habits that have led to what she called “the mental health crises we’re seeing at places like Yale.” A 2013 report by the Yale College Council found that more than half of undergraduates sought mental health care from the university during their time there.

Yale’s Most Popular Class Ever: Happiness – The New York Times

Integumentary matters

by reestheskin on 28/02/2018

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Well, what would you expect of a fellow ectodermist. The story in the FT is about Nick Park refusing to sell Wallace and Gromit.

Yes, I say. “And teeth”, I add. Those Beano characters, like so many Park characters (except of course the mouthless Gromit), had such maniacal teeth. That’s so British, isn’t it? Look what Hollywood did when it wanted to create a funny British secret agent. Austin Powers. Gave him terrible teeth.

I used to say similar things about the prevalence of acne amongst medical students in different countries. But as Miroslav Holub wrote, in a poem that we had to find a dentist to read, at my wedding:

Teeth are rather ridiculous remains of the outside inside

The pedagogy of liars

by reestheskin on 27/02/2018

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But teaching bright young adults also teaches one a lot about the law – and quite a lot about how to spot liars.

Lady Hale: ‘Studying law? Make sure you have the stomach for it’ | Law | The Guardian

Not so much in the tea leaves, but in the latte

by reestheskin on 07/02/2018

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In the US, “belief in work is crumbling among people in their 20s and 30s”, says Benjamin Hunnicutt, a leading historian of work. “They are not looking to their job for satisfaction or social advancement.” (You can sense this every time a graduate with a faraway look makes you a latte.)

Post-work: the radical idea of a world without jobs | News | The Guardian

Tips for teaching

by reestheskin on 17/01/2018

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Luis von Ahn, somebody who has changed the world on more than one occasion, has also been awarded a teaching award from his own university. Take  his tips seriously 😉

  • Pick great TAs. Over the years, I’ve had the most amazing set of TAs, and this teaching award is more than 50% due to them. If you’ve TA’d for me,I would like to give each of you part of the cash prize associated with this award. Too bad there isn’t one.
  • When you don’t know the answer to a question say it’s outside the scope of the course.
  • Teaching evaluations are highly correlated with the grade the students think they will get at the time of filling out the surveys. Make your course easy, then crush them on the final.
  • Never, under any circumstances, disclose the exact grade cutoffs at the end of the semester. Somebody has to get the highest B, and they won’t be happy. “You’re lucky you got a B, dude.”
  • Finish lecture 10 minutes early every time – they love this (and they’ll never know you love it even more).
  • Easiest way to get rid of whiners without yielding: “I’ll take that into account when calculating your final grade, dude.”

[link]

 

Tinder as a metaphor

by reestheskin on 16/01/2018

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The internet, as digital journalist and commentator Cory Doctorow has remarked, is “an ecosystem of interruption technologies”. Always imagine that your readers are looking for a reason to — in Tinder terms — swipe left on your prose

FT

Quote of the day

by reestheskin on 10/01/2018

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The easiest way to predict the future is to prevent it.

Original version is Alan Kay (the easiest way to predict the future is to invent it), and this permutation is his, too. As he says, very appropriate for education.

New boss: same as the old boss

by reestheskin on 09/01/2018

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“In Sweden, if you ask a union leader, ‘Are you afraid of new technology?’ they will answer, ‘No, I’m afraid of old technology,’” says the Swedish minister for employment and integration, Ylva Johansson. “The jobs disappear, and then we train people for new jobs. We won’t protect jobs. But we will protect workers.”

NYT

  • “Won’t get fooled again”; The Who.

Let us change your skin

by reestheskin on 29/12/2017

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Just thinking of the New Year resolutions. Let us change your skin…and empty your wallets.

Philosophy 101

by reestheskin on 27/12/2017

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When is a wheelbarrow a chair?

Neurophobia

by reestheskin on 08/12/2017

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Neurophobia’, a term first coined by Jozefowicz in 1994, describes medical students’ fear of neurology 2. It is a chronic illness that begins early in medical school 4. Physicians and medical students alike often state that neurology is the most difficult subject in the medical school curriculum, and that their knowledge about the subject matter is limited, leading to a lack of confidence in managing neurology patients 5, 6, 7. [link]

There are lots of other phobias, too. Pick one up as you check out of med school.

Marriage

by reestheskin on 08/11/2017

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Marriage, however, proved to be a towering practical problem — Princeton, where Feynman was now pursuing a Ph.D., threatened to withdraw the fellowships funding his graduate studies if he were to wed, for the university considered the emotional and pragmatic responsibilities of marriage a grave threat to academic discipline. [Here]

The above is about Richard Feynman, but reminds me of a story closer to home, told to me by a consultant dermatologist (who I will call CS) and former academic. CS, then a senior registrar, on entering the departmental library, was pleased to see the elderly professor reaching for books on the top shelf. CS, with evident pride, told the professor that he had good news: he was engaged to be married. The professor replied: ‘Sorry to hear that CS, I had high hopes for you’.

REF, TEF and now DEF

by reestheskin on 25/10/2017

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Yes, the Digestive Excellence Framework (DEF) fro PhD students. And as sensible, too.

Of low salaries and high tables

by reestheskin on 27/09/2017

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It was not deliberate policy; it simply seemed to be only men who applied, usually refugees from the twin miseries of academia: low salaries and high tables.

Ah, those were the days…

The Fear Index, Robert Harris

Like arguing with a table

by reestheskin on 21/09/2017

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When you ask me that question I am gonna revert to my ethnic heritage and answer your question with a question: On what planet do you spend most of your time? As you stand there with a picture of the President defaced to look like Hitler, and compare the effort to increase health care to the Nazis, my answer to you is, as I said before, it is a tribute to the First Amendment that this kind of vile, contemptible nonsense is so freely propagated. Ma’am, trying to have a conversation with you would be like arguing with a dining room table: I have no interest in doing it.

Barney Frank, in response to questioner at a town-meeting in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, broadcast on CNN (18 August 2009).

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Pulped in a bath of human piss

by reestheskin on 05/09/2017

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One thing about trying to put the Internet and computing in context, is that you are forced to look back at the history of other communication revolutions (pace Tim Wu, John Naughton etc). It is now a well trodden path, but one I still find fascinating. Even down to the details of how the cost of distributing images or 3D moulages had an effect on my own specialty. The following caught my eye — or maybe my nose.

“When paper was embraced in Europe, it became arguably the continent’s earliest heavy industry. Fast-flowing streams (first in Fabriano, Italy, and then across the continent) powered massive drop-hammers that pounded cotton rags, which were being broken down by the ammonia from urine. The paper mills of Europe reeked, as dirty garments were pulped in a bath of human piss.”

Link

Pity the poor dermatophyte

by reestheskin on 22/08/2017

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”On the business side , its advertising inventory, whether it is sold directly or via third parties, is made of different kinds of ads, ranging from high-value brands such as Rolex or Lexus to low-paying advertisers, like the toe fungus ads used to fill unsold spaces.”

You can’t sell news for what it costs to make – The Walkley Magazine – Medium

Keeping the patients coming: Not so elementary, Watson.

by reestheskin on 10/08/2017

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Well, I thought the Swiss connection with Sherlock Holmes were the Reichenbach falls (I had to visit, a few years back). But no, I read that:

Except in Switzerland, where the stories were banned from railway bookstalls for fear they’d inspire criminality, Sherlock Holmes was big business from the moment of his inception.

But of more interest to the medic:

In 1882, as a newly qualified doctor with a practice in Southsea, Arthur Conan Doyle found himself chronically short of sick people. He therefore used the empty office hours to write his tales about the “consulting detective” who was based on Joseph Bell, the Edinburgh surgeon who knew at a glance what was wrong with the patients parading before him

There is a widespread delusion in the UK that you can accurately plan how many doctors you need. This is a mistake, both for society and for the doctors themselves. As we move forward, I think we will see more medics emulating one of the great ones.

And, as for the book, reviewed in the FT (‘The life and death of Sherlock Holmes’), it highlights that Holmes’ nemesis was not Moriarty, but lawyers.

Sunsetters on the horizon

by reestheskin on 08/08/2017

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WHAT do you call someone who is over 65 but not yet elderly? This stage of life, between work and decrepitude, lacks a name. “Geriactives” errs too much on the side of senescence. “Sunsetters” and “nightcappers” risk being patronising. Perhaps “Nyppies” (Not Yet Past It) or “Owls” (Older, Working Less, Still earning) ring truer.

I am OK with soon (as in the David Bowie song) being patronised. I like ‘sunsetters’ best. Sipping G+T watching the sun go down, in Africa.

Economist.

Note added in proof: Here are some more:

Hopskis: Healthy Old People Spending Kids’ Inheritance

Woopies and Jollies: Well Off Older People, and Jolly Old Ladies with Lots of Loot

No scab doctors here

by reestheskin on 03/08/2017

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“Just fun or a prejudice? – physician stereotypes in common jokes and their attribution to medical specialties by undergraduate medical students”

Paper here. Seriously.

Inverse care law and cats

by reestheskin on 21/07/2017

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My mother in law has two ‘Italian’ cats. One has worms, the other apparently not. Medication time. The diseased cat refuses the medication, whatever enticements are on offer. The undiseased (or cat at ease) scoffs not only his own medication, but that of his partner.

There are plenty of cats in South Wales, and I doubt that coal dust kills off the worms. Julian (Tudor-Hart), where did the idea come from? [ Yes, before you write in, not quite the inverse care as JTH meant it, but metaphors are the viruses of novelty, so who knows.]

Not so much split personality, but man-in-the-middle

by reestheskin on 17/07/2017

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Via Bruce Schneier:

The trouble began last year when he noticed strange things happening: files went missing from his computer; his Facebook picture was changed; and texts from his daughter didn’t reach him or arrived changed. “Nobody believed me,” says Gary. “My wife and my brother thought I had lost my mind. They scheduled an appointment with a psychiatrist for me.”

But he built up a body of evidence and called in a professional cybersecurity firm. It found that his email addresses had been compromised, his phone records hacked and altered, and an entire virtual internet interface created. “All my communications were going through a man-in-the-middle unauthorised server,” he explains.

Nosology

by reestheskin on 06/07/2017

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How to select medical students…………..

On the topic of quotations, though, a longer recent discussion about Hanlon’s Razor on the Farnam Street blog includes this rather nice one from the German general Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord:

I divide my officers into four groups. There are clever, diligent, stupid, and lazy officers. Usually two characteristics are combined. Some are clever and diligent – their place is the General Staff. The next lot are stupid and lazy – they make up 90 percent of every army and are suited to routine duties. Anyone who is both clever and lazy is qualified for the highest leadership duties, because he possesses the intellectual clarity and the composure necessary for difficult decisions. One must beware of anyone who is stupid and diligent – he must not be entrusted with any responsibility because he will always cause only mischief.

The Razor Returns | Status-Q