CATEGORY / epidemiology

Okey-Doke, Mr. Benny

Many thanks to S.M. for showing me and the other S.M. around the, um, lovely town of Rochester, NY, yesterday. Sure, it can be a drabbish industrial place, but it’s got its charms, including hot women, emo music stores, parking spots sufficiently comfortable for napping, and life-shortening BBQ places. Oh yes, and I also learned a new word: “ig’nant”. It’s up there with, “A-iight”.

Speaking of my American friends, in preparation for your upcoming mid-term elections, I share with you this site, which guides you on “intelligent voting”, courtesy of Cousin Ajay, whom I’ve never known to actually cast a vote.

Now this, courtesy of Uncle D., goes out to all my fellow grammar nazis, we who have long suffered in a society that does not know when to correctly use “less than” vs “fewer”. It seems the misplacement of a single comma has resulted in a multimillion dollar court judgement.

From some relative or other, check out the GMAC driving test. I scored 80%, hence the $300 speeding ticket.

Mr (or is it Ms? Hmmmm) EK Hornbeck sends us this tidbit discussing “an increasingly influential movement on the [American] far right” that has waged war against the Constitution. Well, no shit, Sherlock. I haven’t downloaded the linked documentary yet, but I will. Personally, I blame Abraham Lincoln, the first real “imperial” President, the one who, as far as I know, was the first US leader to conveniently suspend hallowed American rights, such as habeas corpus, in the name of national security. The idiocy that is Bush is a logical extension of such dangerous arrogance.

Hornbeck also sends us this story about a study confirming what many heterosexual men have already suspected: women are more likely to be grumpy in the morning. The article stretches a bit, though, and tries to justify this behaviour with the “women have more to do in the morning” argument. I’m open to this possibility, but judging solely by anecdotal evidence, even the ones who have nothing to do in the morning are grumpy. So nerts to that excuse.

Not sure if I’ve discussed this yet, but there was a Lancet article recently that extrapolated a 650,000 Iraqi death toll as a result of the US invasion. The Guardian now reports that some scientists are suggesting the methodology of the study was flawed by virtue of something called “main street bias”.

If true, this constitutes a serious methodological flaw in the original (Johns Hopkins) paper. Main street bias is simply when researchers only sample from convenient sources, i.e. those near the main street. In Iraq, it might be true that those on the main streets are more likely to be exposed to violence, hence resulting in an analytical result skewed toward finding more violence and death.

However, as someone who does methodological reviews for The Lancet, it seems to me highly unlikely that such a glaring flaw would have been allowed publication in the first place in such a hallowed journal. The Johns Hopkins School of Public Health graduates top epidemiological minds, and this alleged flaw is basic, basic epidemiology. As the study’s detractors are physicists and economists, it occurs to me that they might be unaware that such a bias would be among the first elements controlled for within the public health mindset.

More importantly is the simple fact that the full methodology of the study, to the best of my knowledge, has not yet been published. Journals like The Lancet typically keep the boring details of things like sampling strategies in reserve for later online publication. So the detractors are basing their criticisms on assumptions of methodology, not on actual methodology. Yet, the rightwingnutosphere as gobbled up and rebroadcast this criticism with much expected zeal and without asking the right questions, such as, “did the researchers actually do what they are being accused of doing?”

According to the linked story, the Johns Hopkins folks claims that they did indeed sample from non-main street populations. If indeed their methodology is vindicated by the greater scientific community, I wonder if the rightwingnutosphere will publish such an event with as much missionary zeal as they did the initial detraction?

Fatties To the Left Of Me, Fatties To The Right Of Me


Yeah, everyone’s getting fat. Shaila M sends us this article telling us what we all know already: there’s a lipid epidemic hitting (North) America! Almost a third of us are porkers. It’s getting to the point where it’s almost economically arguable to sacrifice one portly mid-Western porker to feed a small African village of 200. Hey, it would breathe new life and meaning into the Peace Corps, no?


Oh, Here It Comes…

Canada is presently undergoing its national census. As an epidemiologist, census data is important to my profession, and I hope whoever is responsible collects comprehensive and accurate data. However, I’m more than a bit put off by the way it’s being done. Since I’m rarely ever at home, the door-to-door census takers often miss me. So, on a number of occasions, I’ve been left with a note, a portion of which is excerpted above. Note that I have not boxed the emphasized portion; it came that way.


Don’t Get Me Started

My little cousin Jenny is all growed up now and has taken a gig in the US Peace Corps, stationed in Burkina Faso! Let me say on record that if any wrong were to befall her, I would personally lead a commando team (made up, sadly, of my high school D&D buddies) to extract her. Cue the A-Team music! In the mean time, she has started her own blog from that country. Read it at



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