It’s three years of Spleen – anyone still out there?

In which Dr Aust is vaguely astonished he has kept going this long – and asks readers if they’d like to tell him who is (still) reading.

Amazingly, it is exactly three years today since Dr Aust’s Spleen went live, and three years and a day since the first major post, titled

“Patrick Holfords friend and mentors – but who are they exactly?”

Now, one has to beware of writing “blog landmark” posts, as they obviously:

(i) do not carry information of any great import except to you, the blogger;  and therefore

(ii) almost inevitably make you seem a self-important arse.  (I’m a University lecturer. What did you expect?)

Given this, I have avoided posting any others of this type since the first anniversary celebration. The second anniversary came and went a year ago, as did the 100,000th page load some time over this Summer, and also the 111,000th and the 111,111th. As a middle-aged cricket fan I was almost moved to comment on one or both of those last two, but inertia (rather than modesty) got the better of me.

Anyway, in the three years of the blog’s life, posts have appeared sporadically, but a count of ninety-three averages to somewhere between two and three a month – which probably exceeds what I would have predicted I would manage over the long haul. (I notice it was thirty posts in the first year of operation, so the yearly posting frequency has not changed). This Summer, though, things have been very slow, for which apologies.

Thanks for Commenting. Really.

There have also been 1600-odd (printable) comments on the blog – especially pleasing since I enjoy comments threads much more than actual blogs. Similarly, I find that these days I like the discussions and “unconference” bits of conferences more than the actual set-piece speeches. So I guess I am by nature a conversationalist rather than an essayist. Though perhaps a “monologue-within-conversation-alist” is closer to the truth.

[Alternatively, it might be that my attention span and ability to focus are shot to hell from too many nightly hours of frantic clicking round De Interwebz, like that nice Dr Greenfield keeps warning about.]

Still on the conversation theme, I am one of those people (apparently rare in the blogosphere) who tend to actually read all the way down long comments threads, at least if the topic is something I’m interested in. Perhaps this explains why I don’t actually blog so much. Anyway, even taking the view that several hundred of those 1600+ comments on the blog will have been written by me (!), it is still gratifying to see how many people have come by to comment over the three years. Blogging is, to my way of thinking, in large part a cyberspace conversation initiated by the post itself; so without the comments the whole thing would lose much of its point. This is a live issue at the moment, as talk in the blogosphere is that commenting on blogs generally is down, with some people attributing this to the “conversations” moving over to Twitter. I reckon there is some truth to this, which makes me all the more delighted that threads here still have comments and discussion.

There has also, of course, been a ton of spam, which outnumbers real comments about ten to one. Though thankfully the filters catch most of it.

Now, inevitably with time one does tend to get a bit stale as a blogger – or other sort of writer. I even spotted Gimpy opining the other day over at his Posterous site that perhaps bloggers ought to be compulsorily shut down after a certain number of posts.

“Maybe a solution is to have some sort of Logan’s Run style time limit on bloggers. After 5 years or 500 posts bloggers should retire….or be retired?”

..though of course he was saying this as a solution to the perceived problem of bloggers becoming too popular. Which is unlikely to be a problem here.

One approach to combat the staleness is to try to change things a bit every now and again. So for instance, a few months past the first anniversary I tried a Diary page (modelled fairly consciously on David Colquhoun’s one) which I updated sporadically for a year before I ran out of steam around last Christmas.

Or one could try to alter the subject matter a bit. In the first anniversary post I wrote:

“When I started [blogging] I did think I would try and blend science explaining in with the snarking, but I have the feeling that over the last six months or so snarking has become rather dominant. I’m not sure why. Perhaps, because explaining science is my day job, it is less attractive as an off-duty blog-hobby.”

I think the preponderance of snark over science has probably been maintained through years two and three – though looking over the posts, the ones that have tended to be most read were often the ones with the most scientific explanation-type content. So perhaps more science exposition would be a possibility.

Let’s hear from you. De-lurk!

And that last sentence brings me back to commenters. And to readers.

I was at a conference a few weeks ago where there was an extended discussion of science and the internet, including blogging. The subject of what audience one was writing for got an airing. One very well known science blogger offered the opinion that one of the best things he had ever done was to have an annual “delurk”  or Open Thread – basically one where he asked his readers to tell him something about themselves, so that he could get an idea of who his audience were.

So – over to you. Who are you (no real names, of course, unless you want to leave them – I mean things like profession and level of science education, if any), and why do you read the blog? And are there any things you would like more of, or less of? More science? Or less? Less pseudoscience and alternative medicine? More academic life? Did you like the currently-in-abeyance Diary?

Anyway, while I am thinking about what I could do in the way of renewal, all comments (as ever) gratefully received. Especially if  you are a reader-but-not-commenter-til-now.

33 Responses to “It’s three years of Spleen – anyone still out there?”

  1. Zeno Says:

    I NEVER read blogs, never mind comments… ;-)

    Just find the right balance between science and pseudo science and anything else that suits you. You always have something interesting to say and that makes it interesting to read.

  2. Jess Says:

    I heed your call to de-lurk! I like the pseudoscience and alternative medicine topics, mainly because I enjoy getting angry via the internet (particularly when the blogger is getting angry/incensed/grumpy/ranty too), which then motivates me to go into the lab and do Real Science™, even when it’s another 8 hours spent sitting in a cold dark room and staring at the 64-channel read-out of an EEG as I test a research participant (I’m doing a PhD in cognitive neuroscience).

  3. GruntDoc Says:

    Oh, yeah. Reading.

  4. Dr Zorro Says:

    Have to confess I highlighted my 100th post. In that first 100 I managed to get off my chest most of what was pissing me off about working in the NHS, and I do wonder what I am going to do next. If I manage 3 years I will be very much surprised. I have been lucky so far in that, unlike you I have so far attracted neither spam, nor offensive trolls.
    Keep on blogging, I will still be reading.

  5. Cybertiger Says:

    I’m still with you, Herr Drippy. I don’t read your stuff but still feel free to comment on the nonsense. I’ll never leave you, Herr Droopy.

  6. The Armchair Daddy Says:

    I’m hoping for another 3 more years of Spleen. You will always have a place on my Google Reader shelf.

  7. Brian Clegg Says:

    Unless it’s a mate’s blog, I’m relatively reluctant to comment – but this doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate it. As an author of popular science books I find science and scepticism blogs excellent reading, yours included.

  8. Maxine Says:

    Hello, I’m here (I seem to be in my personal mode at the moment according to your comments’ definition of who I am, not my Nature one, but I’m here anyway).
    I do try to read comment threads all the way to the end if I want to make a comment, but it is a bit annoying if there are 100 of them (which you will never find on any blog post I write!). I mean, one wants to comment because the blog post has something in it that you as a reader have responded to. But then, you have to wade through the inevitable irrelevancies, stupidities, swearing, abuse etc, as well as a few on-topic observations, to get to no 167 (you), and then you’ve forgotten what you were going to say anyway, or you find that no 166 just said it, rats!!

    So, I prefer blogs where there are not that many comments so one can have a “proper conversation” about the post, with half a dozen or so others……

    But then you would hardly define me as on the cutting edge of the blogosphere or anywhere near the desirable target age group!

    So – my actual comment now follows. I like this blog and I enjoy reading the posts on it. I like reading blogs by the, er, more mature writers as this group tends to have a bit more perspective and “long view”, and when we get outraged it is often for an actual justifiable reason rather than only sounding off. Not always of course!

    Keep up the good work. I don’t agree that one should retire a blog after 5 years of course, but it can get a bit mechanical and boring after that time, and the escape velocity to actually write a post gets harder and harder to achieve. (Speaking personally.)

  9. Rob Says:

    I’ve always read your articles and your comments on other blogs, from BadScience on: please keep at it. It’s all good, but I also like the occasional input from the viewpoint of Frau Dr Aust. Not only do we need a bright light to shine on the scallywags, but it’s always interesting either to see ourselves as others see us, or to find out that there may be other ways of doing things.

    And I enjoy your writing style, by the way, as well as the content.

    As for me, I’m an erstwhile scientist converted into an academic engineer, turned medical physicist researcher turned freelance R&D consultant and software developer. And now teetering on the verge of retirement.

  10. Betty M Says:

    Delurking. I’m a lawyer & civil servant not a scientist past O level. I avoid law blogs and read a lot of science/bad science/medical blogs as well as a large no of personal blogs (almost all by women) which will be of little interest to nearly all your readership – my own rarely updated blog is one of those. I like pseudo-science/alt medicine stuff in particular as it is all grist to my campaign to educate the annoyingly muesli eating/homoeopathy loving/ non-vaccinating mothers I live amongst. I comment far more than my blog and read all the way down too many comments columns for my own good.

  11. Neuroskeptic Says:

    I’m still here, and have no plans on leaving! Keep up the great work.

  12. JDM Says:

    Only three years? I was certain I’d been following your rants for longer than that. (Maybe just on the threads at DC’s.)

    Always useful and informative with (as Maxine notes) a wider perspective. Keep it up.

    Oh and your facepalm-inducing troll is both amusing and a continual reminder of why/how woo can creep in.

  13. Hannah Says:

    I’ve been reading here for about 18 months. Trying to find out whether there was any merit in the alternative medicines a friend was keen on led to a sceptical and science blog reading habit that has been pretty unshakeable since then. My previous science education level was GCSE, but the blogs I’ve been reading (and then the related books) reignited a dormant interest in science that has led me to start studying it with the Open University. So thank you! Your blog was definitely a part of that, and I always enjoy reading your posts, regardless of the subject – they’re interesting and well-written.

  14. Mojo Says:

    Yup, still reading it.

  15. Rachel Says:

    Enjoy the sceptical and science blogs – especially those from a position of weary compassion rather than unadulterated superiority.

  16. Bevan Says:

    Hi – de-lurking,

    Have enjoyed reading your rants/musings for the last year or so. Stumbled onto the blog through badscienceblogs. Am a science grad now working in sales industry. Really good to keep up to date on what’s going on and the woo that’s out there. I too get a good chuckle out of the recidivistic moggy.

    Keep it up!

  17. Sarah Says:

    de-lurking – A regular reader for the last couple of years, an ex programmer studying for a PhD in microbiology. I enjoy the science and the pseudoscience.

  18. The Jobbing Doctor Says:

    I read.

    I enjoy.

    If you apply the Logan’s run principle, then I am a goner (but that’s OK so long as Jenny Agutter comes with me).


  19. Neil Says:

    I’m a long-time lurker. I was interested to see that I am not alone in finding my way to your blog through Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science. I enjoy reading your posts here and your occasional comments at badscience. Your mixture works for me, and I hope that you’lll carry on.

    I’m a civil servant with no science education since age 14. I’m a sociology graduate (what can I say? It was the 70s, everyone was doing it. But I never inhaled). I was lucky enough to study at a Scottish university where the degree had a strong methodological and epistemological element and where we had to think seriously about evidence.

    I find it interesting to read about what proper scientists get up to and am always on the lookout for analysis that helps with the debunking of nonsense.

  20. David Colquhoun Says:

    I’m here. Love it. Keep up the good work

  21. drphilyerboots Says:

    I am yet another Dr, who spent some time doing research in a university, some years ago. I like the science bits, and dip in and out of other bits.

    Working for the university made the NHS seem sensible and coherent.

  22. draust Says:

    Many thanks to all that have commented, especially to the first time commenters / de-lurkers. Will add links and a bit more formatting in this mega-comment as I have time.

    @zeno001 @Armchair Daddy @Neuroskeptic @Mojo @David Colquhoun- cheers for the continued support. Greatly appreciated.

    @Jess Thanks for de-lurking. Always good to see Aus-resident Aussies reading, as well as expats like JDM!. I think people greatly underestimate just how difficult it is to do good science and have it actually working. My friend Xtaldave was Tweeting earlier today about getting a proper diffraction pattern from his protein crystals (at last), but all research is often a hard slog. There is, for instance, the famous story about Max Perutz getting no useful data for something like four years… or the other time that Francis Crick did a back of the envelope calculation and proved that the data Perutz had been collecting for the previous several years was useless for solving the problem he had been gathering it to try and solve! Anyway, you have to have a thick skin and a lot of inner drive sometimes.

    @Dr Zorro Blog fatigue seems to be particularly marked in the medical blogosphere, which I think might reflect it being a safety valve for people when they are cheesed off. Dr Crippen went AWOL for extended periods a couple of times before he finally retired, and both Dr Grumble and the Jobbing Doctor have gone and then returned. There were other medical blogs, too, that I used to read which are still up but are apparently permanently dormant – Dr Ray’s Focal Spot was one quite good one.

    @ShabbyTabby Don’t feel you HAVE to hang around on my account. I’m sure their are plenty of other carpets in the blogosphere where you could leave your deposits..

    @Brian Clegg. Hi Brian. I’m pleased you think the “scientific sceptic” blogs work in a popular science kind of way – that was one of the starting points / intentions, actually, see comments at the end.

    @Maxine Agree about super-long comments threads, which was one of the more frustrating things about some of the popular ScienceBlogs blogs. I guess there is a happy medium between “too many comments” and “too few”.

    I think I tend to read a lot of blogs written by people in the 30-60 age range too, probably for similar reasons. Though in the Bad Science grouping a lot of the people, including ones who write great blogs, are much younger. When I met a bunch of them at Solo08 and Solo09 I felt a bit like their dad..! Or perhaps their “slightly useless unworldly uncle who doesn’t have a real job”. Talking of which, someone recently likened me to Kenton in The Archers, which I don’t think was meant to be a compliment.

    @Rob Cheers. Mrs Dr Aust used to be my proof-reader as well as medical advisor, and still reads things if I beg. She does snort despairingly at the amount of time I spend sorting out the internet, especially trying to talk sense to those who have been lied to by the anti-vaccine people.

    @Betty M Since we are in a middle-class enclave, the Family Aust also live amid a lot of enthusiasts for fish oil capsules / antioxidant pills / homeopathy / Dore / acupuncture etc etc. Funnily enough, given what she tells me about the blogging (see last comment) Mrs Dr Aust usually gets much more exasperated with these folk than me. She has frequently come in from the school run cursing about whatever latest bit of vaccine misinformation she has heard being passed round as gospel as people stand waiting for the kids to get out of class. I think it is partly that she has actually seen adult measles cases / cervical cancer patients / ex-Rubella syndrome kids, so the statistics have a more personal meaning for her, despite the professional medical detachment. Or perhaps it is that, since I am a “professional disputator”, I don’t take it personally if people are not to be talked round.

    @JDM You may also be thinking of Ben Goldacre’s blog – like many of the other “starting” Bad Science blog people I was a keen commenter on his threads (and on David Colquhoun’s) before taking the blogging plunge. I think I had been commenting on their blogs and at the Bad Science Forums since about the middle of 2006, so over a year before the blog started.

    @Hannah I’m really chuffed if the blogs been even a small bit of encouraging you to do the OU science course. In the end “interest” or “curiosity” is the real reason to do science, and we tell all the prospective PhD students this. Anyway, I’m touched.

    BTW, I have a lot of time for the OU. Everyone else has caught up with their “distance-learning” stuff, but in the 70s they were a really revolutionary set-up. My dad, who you might remember from the post here, always says that his political hero Harold Wilsons’s two greatest achievements were keeping the UK from getting embroiled in the Vietnam War, and founding the OU. We have family connections to the OU too.

    @Rachel Thanks. I do feel a bit world-weary these days. But I try (at least when I remember) not to be too put-downing of users of Alt Therapies, if not so much of the salesmen. So I’m pleased if it comes across.

    @Bevan Yes, the link on Ben’s blog has always provided a steady source of traffic. As the comment to JDM above notes, Ben’s blog was really the source for a lot of this. Through 2006 and 2007 we had a lot of people commenting on his blog (including me), and sometimes we would all do bits of research on the same topics – fish oil was one, certainly, or something like the “Magic Pixie Dust Makes Finger Grow Back” story. Don’t know what you would call this -”cloud-sourcing the research?”. Anyway, we tried a Wiki for a while, but I don’t think people really got into that (not enough personal rant space?). After a bit Ben suggested it would make more sense for the more hard-core commenters and other interested folk to “spin out” to their own blogs, and have an aggregator site that listed them all. And thus BadScienceBlogs was born, c Sept 2007.

    @Sarah Thanks for de-lurking. Always good to welcome people back to science from the commercial world. It would be good if there was more to-and-fro, I think, both to stop the Academy getting too insular and to emphasize that Universities and what they teach (and the things people learn that aren’t specifically taught) are not as real-world-irrelevant as is sometimes portrayed. Notably by politicians.

    @Neil Thanks for de-lurking. No animus against sociologists per se here – I grew up living next door to quite a famous one, actually, Basil Bernstein of elaborated and restricted codes fame.

    Totally agreed about the key role of evidence. I’ve always thought that in social sciences there were empiricists and hand-wavers, though I guess some people mix the two. You can see the same “categories” in some sciences, actually. Empiricists in any discipline always ask “what’s the evidence for that?” AND like the evidence to be quantitative, since there is usually evidence on the other side of most arguments (though not all, mentioning no MMR vaccine in particular). Hand-wavers like rhetorical flourishes. Most of the homeopaths are hand-wavers par excellence, with the greatest of their teachers being rhetoricians before all else.

    @DrPhilyerboots Good to have you here. Did the Univ really make the NHS seem sensible? Crikey. I wonder if that would still be true today? Actually, Univs now spend a lot of time trying to look more centrally-organised and business-y, and hiring central administrators, while most University academic staff (or staff groupings) simply want to be left along to optimise their own patch (service?). Which I guess has obvious NHS parallels. So I wonder if the organisational cultures haven’t grown closer. I guess its basically the ever-growing oversight culture which the British seem so fond of. Thankfully the sort of Stalinist tendencies in Univs, and certainly the management’s ability to force the workers to sign up to and implement the central Diktats, are still a long way behind the NHS. I always reckon one can see this from the pains blogging hospital doctors take to remain anonymous, while most academic bloggers are semi-anonymous simply to avoid being “virtual doorstepped” by the Alt.Reality nuts.


    Finally. a few general comments:

    I’m delighted to see that not all readers are necessarily science (or medical, or academic) folk. I have often argued (and bored on about it in various postgrad student “communication” courses) that one ought to be able to explain scientific ideas equally well both to scientists in other fields and to non-scientists. The level / tone of the blog has always attempted to cater to everyone from the “sci/curious” to the science/medical trade, so I’m always glad to have any concrete evidence that it succeeds in that aspiration (at least some of the time).. And one of the reasons I’ve kept blogging about pseudoscience / Alternative Medicine is the idea that it is a topic that connects with more people (than simply explaining scientific research), because it relates more directly to things they see around them. I can’t claim credit for either idea -obviously both were central to Ben G’s Bad Science column and its off-shoots. But it’s pleasing to see real examples of the idea that blogs can give people the info to take out and “promulgate” in their particular communities – if that doesn’t sound too pompous.

    The wide age range of people who read is also pleasing. Very early in the blog’s history a couple of the medical students I teach identified me from reading the blog, so I have always contended that the blog has an “18 to 80″ readership (well, my dad is 79, and he reads it sometimes).

    Lastly, also gratified by the number of regular readers who seem to like the current mix of science, pesudoscience and other miscellanea. Of course, I guess it is a self-selecting population! Like many others, this blog has developed into a kind of personal gemisch, having started with more of a speciflcally Bad Science theme. Anyway, I am encouraged to think that no great change to the tone or the content is needed.

    Now all I have to do is try and actually finish more of the posts that I start writing.

  23. drphilyerboots Says:

    It was 15 years ago that I left university employ to an NHS post, much has changed with the NHS. I still have university contacts as Borsetshire General Hospital is affiliated with Big City Medical School. It may be more sane there than the NHS, but Clinical Academics have both bearocracies to contend with.

    Medical bloggers to tend to burnout, or run out of things to say, my own tends to compare my NHS and private practices, hence my facetious psuedonym. Perhaps it would have been better to pick another. The difficulty is not breaking out of anonymity accidentally, while still having something interesting to say.

  24. draust Says:

    Yes, have friends/collaborators who are clinical academics, so have seen that they have to do homage to both bureaucracies.

    Recognise the danger of “inadvertent de-anonymizing”, though as I said Univ people have less to fear from being unmasked. Several of the medical bloggers I know have accidentally de-anonymized themselves (at least for those of a sleuth-ish bent) by giving clues in this way. Most famously there was the case of “Night Jack” the police detective – though I see he (or at least, somebody) has now resurrected / reposted much of his old stuff.

  25. Sceric Says:

    another de-lurk

    I quite often read what you’re about, but I have to admit that commenting lost it’s appeal, as a) somebody mentioned my point already b) I haven’t enough experience of the issue at hand c) informing or trying to educate the “enlightened” and “spirited” commenters doesn’t work anyway

    But reading the comments is good for getting additional information and learning that there are people around with a similar mind-set (if not opinion)…


  26. Liz Ditz Says:

    Well, I’m still reading — mostly in RSS, only coming over to read if the topic is really germane to my interests.

  27. Michael Ringland Says:

    I found you through the bad science site. As an Australian physiotherapist who was “trained” in acupuncture, nutrition, and THEN as a physio (after law and teaching) I work with the views of the medical and pseudos. I provided a mixed approach.

    I think the “alternates” and I was one, partly due to their selective education, just don’t know exactly how much they don’t know. Once graduated, we inform the public (doctors could do much better at that) and it is my hope that the information I provide is sort of correct – and that sends me to places like this. Your blog is a little like preaching to the converted, I read of homeopathy with a both a disbelief and anger that people are so dam stupid.

    The ‘informed consent” legally required prior to manipulation lists stroke and the possibility of death, to fix your stiff neck – perhaps it is my delivery of this warning which has meant not a single patient of mine has been willing to risk it. I use a much gentler “mobilisation” technique, and have found that successful – why don’t chiropractors use it?

    I have also seen, and worked under, some arrogant bastards who can call themselves doctor – they work long hours because their family life sucks – a university course on “how to be human” would be a useful addition to an undergraduate medical study.

    We (as clinical practitioners) rely on evidence based medicine but I can say physiotherapists don’t have a perfect record: an Australian physio finds hardly any good evidence that stretching is useful for much except providing an income stream or “seen to be doing something” – yet the ranting from my profession that “it works for me, the general public like it, the doctors expect it” all cause me a measure of concern. We all must be vigilant against the creeping “this is the way Ive always done it” attitude. It is blogs like yours that keep the spark of “there is another ranter out there who is prepared to put in some time to spark ideas and generate feedback”. Well done! Keep it coming.

  28. Evan Harris Says:

    I am reading too and appreciate your efforts!

    With best wishes

  29. Muscleguy Says:

    De lurking too. Such introspection and reassessment is a good thing to do periodically. But I would opine in my non clinical judgement that the symptoms described seem unlikely to require a splenectomy to remedy them.

    Why not split the year into 3 month periods and try varying the proportion of spleen vs explication and measure hit rates and comment levels? Nothing like some objective data when trying to make decisions.

    PhD in Physiology and nearly 15 years bench research in DevBio, my moniker reveals my area of interest.

  30. draust Says:

    Thanks again for those later replies. Apologies for the slow response, first week of University term / semester here.

    Sceric: I know what you mean. I often find thing I think of blogging about get done by other people (better!) while I am still thinking about it. Anyway, good to know you are still reading.

    Liz Ditz: Hi Liz. I guess I haven’t written anything about autism, vaccines and the anti-vax nuts here in a while, though I have actually spent quite a bit of time arguing with the Mercury Militia types elsewhere. I do have a couple of half-done-and-then-abandoned vaccine-related posts, so I should dust them off some time and try and finish them. Of course, I’d have to find them first…

    Michael Ringland: Many thanks for that. It is always interesting to hear from someone who actually is/has been a practitioner. Some of your comments reminded me of one of the people who comments over at David Colquhoun’s blogs. This is “Dudeistan” (who previously posted as “Malucachu”). He is a physio in the NHS and has also done some training in “Western” acupuncture. You can see him arguing with one of the TCM acupuncture people on this thread. I particularly liked this comment.

    I think a lot of the acupuncture in the NHS is actually done by the physios, with some more done by the pain medicine people. I had tended to assume the physios did the “Western” medical acupuncture, but a new acupuncture degree that is opening near us, run by a Physiotherapy School, seems to be going for the full-on Chinese mumbo-jumbo with all the trimmings, which is disappointing.

    Found what you said about communicating the risk:benefit of things like cervical manipulation particularly interesting. Edzard Ernst always highlights this as one of the great blind-spots of the chiropractors, who basically seem to insist as a matter of faith that there are clear benefits (absent any convincing evidence, of course), and no risks whatsoever (!), for chiropractic cervical twisting.

    My wife does quite a bit of musculoskeletal medicine stuff, and tends to refer people to the physios a lot, but she is fond of saying that “You have to get the right physio”. I think what she mostly means by this is that you have to get the right exercises for the particular kind of regional problem, and also that a lot of attention needs to go into whether the patient can do the exercises, and also whether the patient fully understands why they need to do them that particular way. She seems to be tending lately to refer to physios who specialise in particular kinds of problems, mostly to address this sort of stuff.

    Evan Harris: always a pleasure to see you dropping by.

    Muscleguy: Always look forward to your interventions on the Grauniad Comment is Free threads. Again, pleased to see you’re still reading the blog. Are you doing a science job at the moment?

    Like the idea of an “observational study”, BTW, but I can’t see me being that organised!!

  31. Eileen Says:

    This could be classed as an “instant delurk” in that I’ve just read all your blog including lots of the threads!!! Must be mad!! Now it’ll be gentle following I suppose having done the historical bit.
    I’m a graduate physiologist (Scotland, converted a technical qualification to an Hons) who learnt German when her husband decided to re-start his research carrier 3 years after the dosh ran out on his PhD work. We went to Germany for a year and stayed 10 so now I have been working as a translator for more than 25 years (preferred fields: medicine and science). This summer I really realised just how little the average MOP knows about anything other than the DM version of science – I know, I’m naive, but I was just a bit shocked when his cousin asked my other half “What exactly is it you do????” He retired early from the NHS and now does consultancy in his special interest scientific field and is a world expert in it (though in fairness you’d never know ;-) ). We knew what the enquirer did as an Ombudsperson (other than earning an awful lot more than a scientist). But they were part of the social class who produced malnourished children because of the “healthy diet” gurus and all the rest of it and who never recognised the title of doctor unless it was possessed by a medic (which he is not, despite his German Habilitation degree making him a Dr to the power 2). But’s that’s life I guess.

    Personal preference: bit more science and less AltMed, either way, please keep going.

  32. DMcILROY Says:

    Yes, I’m still reading, but rather sporadically. I’ve kind of stopped reading badscience / skeptic blogs regularly, and switched to more “‘educational” science blogs to do with my own field. Vincent Racaniello’s excellent Virology Blog and Alan Cann’s Microbiology Bytes, for example.

    As I said before, I come here for the curmudgeonly grouching, rather than anything else.


  33. Dr Aust Says:

    Hi DMc. Good to hear you’re still reading – saw you hadn’t commented for a while.

    I think the general tone of curmudgeonly grouching is one thing that is likely to remain constant, whatever the content…!

    Eileen – thanks for the comment – always a delight to welcome a new reader, especially one that likes comments threads.

    Germans can be very fussy about titles. I remember The Doc (that’s my other half) telling me that when she came to the UK straight after finishing medical school she found it very off-putting when people called her “Doctor So-and-So” – in Germany a medical doctor is not automatically called “Doktor”, as I’m sure you know.

    For those who don’t know, to get to be a “Doktor”, rather than an “Artzt” (medical practitioner), a German medic has to have submitted, and had accepted, a research thesis (MD) which they do in their spare time at medical school, and sometimes complete over a few months (or even a year or two) afterwards. If they don’t do this they are still a medical graduate, and can practise medicine, but can’t be “Herr / Frau Doktor”, and would never be addressed as such in Germany. Mrs Dr A writes her qualification:

    Her Name … State Med Exam (State)

    I thought this “don’t call me doctor” was quite funny when she first told me, so I mentioned it to a German colleague at work. He was a medical grad with a PhD, the German MD AND a Habilitation, so I guess he was a “Herr Doktor Doktor Doktor”. Anyway, he told me:

    “Oh no, this is quite correct.

    When I finished my time at medical school I went to do my military service in the German army as an army doctor. [The military personnel] addressed me always as “Staffartzt”… Only when I could tell them my MD Thesis had been officially ratified by the University they would start to call me “Doktor” ..”

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