Headline Statistics

Baby teeth removals ‘up 24% in a decade’
These bloody statistic things really piss me off.
They quote a big headline figures, and then make it difficult to work out something sensible.
For your information: allowing for the 16% increase in the UK (0-4) population over the last 10 years, I calculate an increase of 6.6% (of the order of 550 extra for the whole UK, by the way – that’s a couple of extra kids in the whole of Southampton, I think.)
And since they mention it, they clearly thought it might be relevant, but don’t bother to work it out.
Of course any figures are not nice, but 7% is a loooong way from 24%.

And it is the Royal College of Surgeons‘s fault – their press release is the offending document.
As so often happens, they create the biggest nonsense figure they can think of and then put it in the headline.
It would even have been natural to put the sensible (population-normalised) figure in the table in their Note 3, but they chose to leave it out.

Actually, there is possibly a really interesting story here.
It turns out that much of the increase is in the last 5 years or so. Could it be that in the post-2008 financial climate, people in general are not going to the dentist? Ah, you might say, but children are free. Yes, but recent reports suggest that children aren’t going to the dentist because their parents aren’t.

By the way, the same organisation’s Report on the State of Children’s Oral Health is much more sensible than the press release. It says:

However, it is not immediately clear why the number of hospital admissions for children with dental caries is increasing. One possible explanation is the similar percentage increase in the birth rates of these children, but there has not been a significant change in the level of treatment for children with dental caries in primary care. Other explanations could be that children are not being treated appropriately in primary care, or they are seeking dental treatment when the caries is already at an advanced stage so must be referred to specialist services. Alternatively, it could be that preventive measures such as moderating the consumption of sugar and/or brushing teeth are decreasing.

One final comment – in 2000, Department of Health changed its recommendation about general anaesthetic, saying that it should only be done in hospital, due to safety concerns. It is always interesting to think about what other policy changes might have contributed to statistical changes. For example, it may have taken a while for the advice to be implemented, or maybe that has contributed to a change in dentists’ behaviour, in that they are more likely to recommend extraction in a hospital than extensive other work in the surgery.
7% (of the order

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Misquoting Harold Wilson’s “White Heat” speech

Usually Harold Wilson’s famous 1963 speech is quoted as something like Britain needed to be forged in the white heat of technology, or technological revolution.

Both of these are wrong.

I think Wikiquote has it right:
“In all our plans for the future, we are re-defining and we are re-stating our Socialism in terms of the scientific revolution. But that revolution cannot become a reality unless we are prepared to make far-reaching changes in economic and social attitudes which permeate our whole system of society. The Britain that is going to be forged in the white heat of this revolution will be no place for restrictive practices or for outdated methods on either side of industry.”

Why rewrite science to technology? Wilson knew about technology, but he chose science. And his audience would have understood the word at that time.

A good and honest short quote for this might be “forged in the white heat of this [scientific] revolution”.

It is a powerful view, given by Wilson, that it is the scientific revolution and the science that drives the world, and enables the technology, and it is the science that should be supported, and certainly not just the technology.

We can only assume that people who misquote are being deliberately mendacious or simply ignorant.

And it is a shame in this world of technology and Web Science that we lose the import of the middle sentence: that we need to be prepared to make far-reaching changes in economic and social attitudes.

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LinkedIn results on Google

Where to start with LinkedIn?

Well this is specific – the Google results.

I want to find someone’s personal or work page, and I put in their name, and get the first half a dozen results of different LinkedIn pages for people with that name (or another!). And none of them give much information if you click on them – they all ask you to sign up to LinkedIn in the hope of actually getting the details you want.

I now have a shortcut: -site:linkedin.com, which helps a bit – maybe I need to add -site:facebook.com to it…

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I did a Silly Thing

I had been spreading grit and salt with my hand (to keep my glove clean) and thought I would clean it and the bucket with snow. Big mistake.

Picked up a load of clean snow with the same hand. The pain was almost instant, and excruciating. By the time I had got to some clean water to wash it off, I genuinely thought I had damaged by fingers, although the pain was only in my hand, as all the fingers were now completely numb. I could see the skin was not in a good state, and guess that is what frostbite is.

Anyway, although I could feel it for a few days, there seem to have been no longer-term permanent damage.

But bathing my hand in salt solution that might get as low as -17C was clearly rather a Silly Thing.

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Hotel “Special Rates” for conferences

Yes they are – especially more!

They really look to rip attendees off by charging more than they would otherwise, but what really pisses me off is that the conference web site then gives you a link, with a special code, so that when you click on it you are identified as the person to be ripped off!

Example: Tonight, an invitation to
4th European Semantic Technology Conference 2010
December 2-3, 2010
Vienna, Austria
The conference website gets me a “special” rate at the conference hotel (Marriot, The Imperial Riding School Renaissance Vienna Hotel) at €120 for a “Guest room, 1 King or 2 Twin/Single” for the night of 3rd December 2010.

Perhaps not too bad, unless you go to the standard Marriot reservation site at http://www.marriott.co.uk. Then you get an offer for the same room for the same night at €103, taxes included, etc..

Yeah, sure, I’m sure there are all sorts of complicated explanations about reserving rooms etc., etc., but in the end it’s a rip-off, and I have seen it so many times it really pisses me off.

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I have always avoided LinkedIn – the idea of a site where I can’t see anything unless I join tells me me they don’t actually provide anything people want unless they are press-ganged.

But it is worse than I thought.

I really needed to contact someone, and the only email Google showed was on LinkedIn. So I bit the bullet and created an account (fu@glasers.org, of course), and happily went to look at his details. There was a tiny bit more, plus the offer to “Send InMail”. So I happily clicked on the link and…

“To send an InMail now, upgrade your account.”

WTF! They want $24.95 per month for me to send a message. Apparently, for that, I can actually send 3 InMails, which they tell me is $30 of value. $10 per message! And they actually recommend a $49.95 account.

Well at least closing the account was not too painful – only had to confirm three times.

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