Archive for The Guardian

Scrapping Covid surveillance study would put public health at risk [by Silvia Richardson]

Posted in Books, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2022 by xi'an

Royal Statistical Society president (and very dear friend) Sylvia Richardson published this tribune in the Guardian defending the preservation of a national surveillance system last week:

Sajid Javid is right to argue against scrapping the Office for National Statistics’ Covid surveillance study. Throughout the pandemic, national surveillance studies have provided invaluable information to support decision-making.

For any real-time health surveillance system to be reliable and cost-effective, it cannot rely solely on self-reported tests. These data sets are likely to be biased, as it is impossible to know how many people are also reporting their negative results and, if tests start to come with a cost, how many people simply aren’t testing. If we are to get reliable information about the prevalence of Covid, it is essential to maintain studies such as the ONS’s and React to allow statisticians to estimate infectiousness and the proportion of the population who are infected (including those without symptoms), as well as to identify new variants.

Abrupt disruption of a surveillance system is wasteful, will make tracking of prevalence meaningless and will put in jeopardy the future health of the public. If important surveillance studies must be scaled down, this cannot be led by arbitrary cost-cutting targets, but should be led by statisticians to ensure that studies continue to provide reliable information.

eugenism and the complete opposite [not a book review]

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , , , , , on February 21, 2022 by xi'an

When reading last Sunday the Guardian book review of Control: The Dark History and Troubling Present of Eugenics (to appear) by Adam Rutherford, I got reminded of a recent Nature (general public) article on the “mixed-race” myth in Latin America. Which itself reminded me of an opposition I noticed when preparing for  the discussion on eugenics at the 2019 JSM. The Nature article, “How the mixed-race mestizo myth warped science in Latin America“, tells the story of a post-racial society with enough mixing (mestizaje, which also has a colonial coloration) between earlier ethnicities throughout the population to achieve greater social cohesion and put an end to racism. Story that appeared in the early 1900’s in opposition to North America’s and (part of) Europe’s eugenic policies oriented towards (supposedly) “preserving racial purity”. This story alas did not prevent racism, though, with “skin colour [still being] a powerful determinant of wealth and education levels across Latin America”, and forced sterilisations, incl. in the 1990’s. And, while creating a poorly defined label, it was also instrumental in repressing indigenous communities and cultures.

health [s]care

Posted in Kids, pictures with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 14, 2022 by xi'an

cheese myths [and mites]

Posted in Kids, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , on December 22, 2021 by xi'an

The Guardian published a somewhat hilarious article on cheese myths, with which I have no beef! Here are some.

  1. You can cook with cheap cheese. What’s the point, then?!
  2. Pre-grated cheese is fine. Sawdust is even cheaper…
  3. The older, the better. It depends. Which is why my regular cheesemonger is an affineur.
  4. Wrap in clingfilm or keep in an airtight container. I have given up using clingfilm altogether.
  5. You can store it in the fridge door. Not enough space and too dry. Until they retired, my parents never store cheese in a fridge as they enjoyed a perfect underground cellar with an unpaved floor.
  6. If it goes mouldy, it’s bad. Erm, there is no cheese without mould, mites, or bacteria. If worse comes to worse, scrap the offending part! (My affineur actually saves mites when brushing his olrder cheese to sprinkle them on younger ones and accelerate the aging process.)
  7. The temperature of your room is “room temperature”. At least, it is better than straight out of the fridge. (See 5. above.)
  8. You need specialist cheese knives. Never heard of cheese knives! Except for a cheese plane I use for extra-old and -hard Dutch cheese. The important point is in having sharp knives and cleaning them when switching cheese
  9. … and a cheese board. This is the most contentious point as cheese need be cut properly on a flat surface, especially hard cheese. Outside a large plate or a board, what is the alternative?! Unless the argument is in avoiding over-consumption.
  10. Rinds are inedible. Unless made of foreign materials like was, wood or straw, or too hard to chew, the rinds are part of the taste!
  11. Just slice any way you like. De-fi-ni-te-ly not!! Each slice, from the first to the last, should be the same. It otherwise modifies the taste and the aging, while potentially generating more waste.

WoT first three impressions

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 18, 2021 by xi'an

As I was pessimistic about the adaptation of the behemoth (14 volumes) Wheel of Time adaptation as an Amazon TV series, I was not particularly disappointed after watching the first three episodes! Regarding the following comments, I do realise that having started reading these books in 1990 and having completed reading the 15 volumes puts me in a tiny minority and that anyone unfamiliar with Jordan’s universe would take the story as it comes rather than checking for discrepancies from the gospel.

Good stuff:

  • Egwene and Nynaeve are delivering strong personalities to their respective character, kudos!, in a sense improving upon their book counterparts!
  • Moraine Sedai is reasonably well rendered, although she could have appeared as more ambiguous though (and why did they add this injury in the Bel Tine scene to the original story?)
  • this includes her telling of the story of Manethren
  • the way Trollocs and Fades are rendered is great
  • the scenery is mostly fabulous, esp. the entrance to Shadar Logoth
  • meeting the Tuatha’an was great, except for the fake scare at the beginning, and the arguing about their non-violent commitment is pretty convincing
  • the idea making the first Darkfriend we meet  more humane and ambivalent than in the book is hopefully going to be seen again

Bad lines:

  • the choice of having the Dragon being one of the five friends, incl. Egwene and Nynaeve, clashes with the structure of Jordan’s world, as well as Moraine’s early infodump
  • Matt, Perrin, and Rand appear incredibly naïve, but maybe this was already the case in the book
  • Matt is decidedly downright unpleasant from the start (i.e., even before Shadar Logoth)
  • the notion to have Perrin already married and the ensuing trauma are terrible novelties, the more because he doesn’t look so traumatized by the ending
  • the special treatment of Nynaeve by one trolloc is missing from the book and unclear as to its contribution to the plot (and why would Moraine leave without her?)
  • costumes are terrible, almost uniformly!, and too modern, looking like they were bought from second hand stores (and more globally there is a feeling of cheapness in the set designs, from Shadar Logoth to Tar Valon)
  • Moraine’s and Lan’s fight in the Two Rivers is rather unconvincing and messy (why did she need to turn this nice inn building into missiles?!)
  • why would Rand and Tam miss the village Bel Tine celebration to return to their farm?
  • The Guardian got highly negative about the show and even about the books (which the first reviewer had never read) maybe seeing too much in the (admittedly terribly heavy) writing style of Robert Jordan and maybe trying too had to draw a comparison with Game of Thrones (just like so many critics). So did the New York Times
  • making the only Darkfriend so far coming out of the open and a sword expert
  • Lan not commenting on Rand’s father’s heron sword, while zooming on said heron several times
  • the sooo slooow walk of Egwene and Perrin in the third episode once they get on track(s), thanks to the wolves
  • the Whitecloacks being depicted as just too evil from the start, with no ambivalence whatsoever (this was also true in the book, which [spoiler alert!] makes Galad joining them later—sorry for the spoiler—difficult to fathom)
  • similarly, the first Red Sister we meet (Liandrin) is similarly too one-sided to give a balanced picture of the different Ajahs in the White Tower
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