(Y)ear-ily quiet

It’s been a considerable while since I posted here (even by my laggard-ly standards), so I thought I would use the end of the year – and a real kidney stone of a year it’s been, all in all – to reassure any remaining loyal readers* that I have not joined the choir invisible, but am merely lurking. Blame ‘blog fatigue’, among other things.

I don’t know how many of these who are still visiting are users of Twitter (anyone care to confess?). Anyway, given my seemingly ever-diminishing attention span, Twitter is probably the best place to follow my abbreviated (if inevitably rather repetitive) rantings. Should you be so inclined, of course.

Meanwhile, while wondering what I could possibly write about today, I found myself re-visiting my last year’s predictions for the year ahead. Or rather – what I thought I could predict with a fair degree of certainty would still be true on Dec 31st 2011.

When I did this, I was slightly surprised to find that almost all of them were broadly correct.

Indeed, some of them were depressingly accurate.

Perhaps most depressingly, I predicted that:

‘The NHS will still be the subject of endless daft reforms”

Well, not a difficult prediction to make, of course. But I have to say I really am profoundly depressed by what is now being proposed – which seems far too likely to be a form of asset-stripping by the big private multinational Healthcare Cos that have been assiduously dripping their syrup into the ears of politicians of all parties, and their advisers, for the last decade and a half. I was reading this article earlier today, and it was – is – very scary.

Getting back to the 2010 year’s end predictions, the major exception to their correctness is the one about Jr Aust #1 losing interest in Harry Potter – though her interest did wane a bit though the Summer, when it was displaced by a taste for the adventure stories of Enid Blyton (sic). However…after we were all compelled to watch some near-interminable programme of Harry Potter movie highlights this afternoon, I think we can conclude that, though Jr Aust #1’s Potter-ism seems to be of the relapsing-remitting type, it is definitely chronic.

Talking of the sprogs, I continue to be given regular lessons in Karmic Payback by Jrs Aust #1 and #2. Jr Aust #1 achieved the goal of out-talking dad around the age of four, and for the last couple of years has been out-arguing me too. By out-arguing I mean talking over me, refusing to admit she could ever possibly be wrong, never giving an inch, indulging in casuistry of Jesuitical deviousness, continually shifting the goalposts, and retaining the final sanction of storming out of the room still loudly insisting she is right.

Mrs Dr Aust and I continue to hope this prefigures a well-rewarded future as a lawyer.

(Though reading that again, I’m slightly worried that it sounds like the rhetorical repertoire of most politicians)

Until earlier today, though, Dr Aust had usually managed not to be verbally outsmarted by Jr Aust #2 (formerly Baby Aust, but as he is now three and a half that doesn’t seem all that appropriate a handle any more).

As I was saying – until today.

When we were having dinner earlier Jr Aust #2 insisted on doing all his eating whilst lying on his back on his chair with his feet (none too clean feet, I should say) on the table.

Naturally I told him to get his feet off the table.

“No feet on the table at dinner”

I said in my sternest paterfamilias voice.

Upon which he lifted his feet until they were hanging some foot or so above the table, in the air, propped on the side of the table.

He simultaneously fixed me with a triumphant look and said:

“Not ON the table”.

After Mrs Dr Aust managed to stop laughing, which took some minutes, she noted that New Year’s Eve 2011 would live in family history (infamily?) as:

“The Day Dr Aust was Out-Lawyered by BOTH his children”.


Happy New Year All

PS Should you be of a celebrating mind (as opposed to collapsing into bed in the next hour or so), I should also add:

“And the same procedure as every year


*The visitor stats do suggest that a few regular remain. For which thanks.

15 Responses to “(Y)ear-ily quiet”

  1. Euan Says:

    Happy New Year Dr Aust,

    I think there is space in the blogsphere for the rarer lesser-posting blogger and your missives are always worth the wait.

    I remember reading a book on blogging several years ago just before I started my own and a couple of things stuck in my head. Firstly, never apologise for not posting. The other article was about managing the end of a blog’s life. I’ve realised that mine had come to the end of its span. Interestingly, it was still picking up 100 hits a day based on the old posts (mostly fruitcakes looking up the effects of apricot kernels).

    So I’ve pulled the plug on mine – no valedictory message, no rant. Just gone. But I hope you don’t do the same! (And I’m sure I’ll start up again with something new soon.)



  2. Sceric Says:

    Well, an interesting new year to all of you too and “yes” little Sceric tends/tries to outargue his parents all along the way. I currently assume politician or marketing will be his “end”.
    and “no” not twitter for me yet…
    and I’ll predict something for 2012:
    1. an earthquake bigger than 6.5 on the Richter scale
    2. Britain keeps the Pound and the Royals for another year
    3. the British soccer team will win in a penalty shoot out


  3. Cybertiger Says:

    Happy New Year, Herr Draust, Frau Draust and all the little drippies.

    I was wrong in one of my predictions for 2011.

    I had expected that Professor David Salisbury would be knighted for services to vaccine safety. This expectation will now have to be put back another year …. or at least till the Queen’s next birthday. However, vaccine safety advocates will not have been disappointed by this New Year’s haul of top gongs.

    Arise Sir Andrew …

    “Andrew Witty. Chief executive Officer, GlaxoSmithKline. For services to the Economy and to the UK Pharmaceutical Industry. (Buckinghamshire).”

    and arise Sir Mark …

    “Professor Mark Brian Pepys. Formerly Professor of Medicine and head of the Division of Medicine, University College London Medical School, Royal Free Hospital. For services to Biomedicine. (London, NW11).”

    Let’s not forget that Sir Mark is a business superstar and the ‘chosen one’ – chosen by GSK to be the new Ronald McDonald of scientific academia in this brave new age of McScience*


    But hang on, wait a minute … hasn’t GSK recently been fined $3 billion by the US government for dodgy drug dealing and dodging drug safety deals?

    Arise Sir David …. Professor Salisbury … your time will come.

    * http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/McScience

  4. draust Says:

    Thanks all for the comments and greetings.

    And Happy New Year.


    Crikey – I hadn’t noticed you’d taken your blog down, though I had seen on my last visit some time back that you’d not posted for ages.

    I think ‘blogging fatigue’ comes to all bloggers eventually. Dr Grumble was suffering with it, and has gone offline for an indefinite period, and I remember the much-missed Dr Crippen having several extended spells of silence before he finally called it a day. Even Ben Goldacre has ‘gone dark’ to a large extent, though he has his book project(s) to progress.

    I suppose the downside to you taking your blog off-line is that there is one less site to actually tell people that apricot-kernels-posing-as-a-therapy is crap. Perhaps you should recycle that material as an article somewhere?


    Interesting predictions. Taking them in order:

    1. I guess this might be something that can be estimated reasonably accurately based on seismological and historical data, though I don’t know where the info would be. Reminds me I once visited a seismological survey station on Lanzarote that they had turned into a tourist site. Some years ago we actually had a series earthquakes in my bit of Northern England (bizarrely), though none of them got above 4 on the Richter scale.

    2. That one we can take as a nailed-on certainty.

    3. Glaubst du? Nur wenn wir nicht gegen die Deutsche Mannschaft kämpfen.

    As a famous old (English) football joke has it:

    “Football is a simple game: you play for 120 minutes… and then the Germans win on penalties.”


    Captains of Industry like Witty getting gongs is hardly a great surprise, surely? Especially with him being from GSK, who are now practically the only bit of Evul Big Pharma left in the UK. I dare say he would still get knighted if GSK only made over-the-counter remedies.

    And what does Brian Pepys have to do with vaccine safety (I know I shouldn’t ask)? He seems to be an academic rather than industry scientist as far as I can tell, and the FRS suggests he is a good guy.

    Given the frenzy (desperation?) with which Universities and industry are chasing any kind of viable collaboration to try and develop new drugs, it’s no big surprise that Pepys has tie-ins to the PharmaCos. No-one else can afford to do clinical drug development, after all, and with the buzz-word in medical research being ‘translational’

    While one might be uneasy that drug development through clinical trial phases 2 and 3 is now run virtually exclusively by the PharmaCos, the fact is that this is largely a consequence of:

    (i) the need for elaborate regulatory regimes for new drug approval (i.e. to make new drugs safe, pace Thalidomide etc)
    (ii) the consequent high cost of drug trials, which public funds don’t run to.

  5. Cybertiger Says:

    Oh dear Draust, you’ve become the Ronald McDonald of the scientific blogosphere and yet are not even mildly funny.

    BTW, here is Sir Mark appealing for safer vaccines,


  6. Cybertiger Says:

    The pantomime season is now in full swing. And the season of hilarity kicked off in fine style with the Ronald McDonald of safety vaccinology,


    Put on your diaper, draust! This clown will have you rolling around and wetting yourself all over.

  7. draust Says:

    Thanks for the link to the video of that really excellent lecture by Paul Offit, Shabby. He talks a lot of good sense. As one would expect.

    Interested to see it was given in the main auditorium at the NIH Clinical Center. I have fond memories of listening to some first-rate lectures in that auditorium back when I worked at the NIH.

  8. Cybertiger Says:

    Drippy: glad you enjoyed the show … hysterical was it not? I’d guessed you worked at the NIH, the big ‘School for not very funny Clowns’.

    Talking of hysteria, that Zorro fellow – the one with the MD – hasn’t shown up yet with his festive messages of merriment. Like you, he’d not have seen the silly side of this performance at the NIH last September,


    The show was so clownishly unfunny it had me weeping buckets into my banoffee pie. Do you like bananas, Dreary?

  9. Sceric Says:

    Hello Dr. A:

    to 1: I’d use http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/recenteqsww/
    worked for me when I was studying in Japan a few years back. looking at the last days my prediction should be a hit
    to 2: thought so…I first was going to predict that you get rid of your current government but I assume we beat you to it an kick out our president
    to 3: wasn’t it Gary L. that came up with that sentence? And I’m not so sure, we don’t always need the penalties against the guy with the three lines on their shirt

    and back to _quote by my son- “tiger AA”


  10. Cybertiger Says:

    I recently listened to this coruscating presentation from Boulder Colorado, recorded in October 2010,


    At question time, at the end of the presentation, someone said,

    “There was a radio interview yesterday; at the end of it there was a claim that Dr Wakefield was unwilling to debate someone … Dr Paul … whatsisname … Offit.

    Andrew Wakefield goes on to speak, saying,

    “Yes, for those that don’t know, Dr Paul Offit is on the vaccine advisory committee in this country and is a patent holder in one of the rotavirus vaccines, in fact the vaccine that was contaminated with the two pig viruses … and has been a long term advocate for the kinds of things you were talking about … enforced vaccination … and in fact, no, it’s not true, I’ve actually written to Dr Paul Offit and sent as a registered letter an invitation to him, to debate me, in public at any time of his choosing … and he’s not even troubled to respond … and I’ve done that at several public meetings such as this … and I will do it again,

    “Dr Offit, I will debate you at any time of your choosing on this subject, so please let me hear from you as soon as possible.”

    After watching his pitiful performance at the NIH (aka School of Unfunny Clowns (SofUC)) – and comparing it to the above – I can well understand why Offit does not dare debate Wakefield.

  11. kausikdatta Says:

    Dr Aust, I do envy you. Not only do you have an interesting blog, you have your own clown as well. Here’s wishing exciting times ahead! :)

  12. Cybertiger Says:

    GSK’s corporate motto goes something like,

    “committed to improving the quality of human life”


    Arise Sir Andrew … Andrew Witty, Chief executive Officer, GlaxoSmithKline was honoured for services to the economy and to the UK pharmaceutical industry.

    … and then I read this,


    and begin to understand the true reality of the clowning.

  13. Cybertiger Says:

    Did you know that James Murdoch, the Ronald McDonald of media executives, was on the board of GSK?


    What fun!

  14. draust Says:

    I’d agree that you’d certainly hope GSK could find someone more clued-up than the thoroughly unimpressive James Murdoch.

    The Buenos Aires story is depressing, but unfortunately examples of substandard ethical conduct in clinical trials and research are hardly new – see e.g. A Wakefield Esq. Anyway, it is certainly to be condemned unequivocally, though I gather Glaxo are appealing the ruling. Hopefully the publicity will see the rules for the conduct of trials in Argentina and other developing countries tightened, and regulatory oversight improved. However, the claims about deaths made in the silly headline of the article quite clearly don’t stand up, as is obvious from a read of it.

    As far as one can tell reading the article, what the number refers to is that, of the 15,000 or so infants enrolled in the trial and vaccinated against pneumococcal pneumonia with the GSK vaccine, 15 died over the period of the study. But the published WHO mortality statistics tell us that Argentina has a non-neonatal infant death rate in the first year of life of around 4 per 1000 (2008 figures). So that would be (arguably) something like 60 deaths expected in a population of 15,000 children. Which is a lot more than 15.

    Glaxo Argentina did release a statement saying that none of the deaths in trial participants were related to the vaccine. I dare say that won’t impress you, though, Shabby.

  15. Cybertiger Says:

    Hi Drippy – and your dreary mates

    Long time, no hear. (Y)ear-ily quiet: have you retired?

    I accept that you are not interested in either truth or justice, or even in the genuine progress of science. However, I invite you to consider contributing to this fund …

    … even if you’re now living on a measly pension with kids to feed and educate and a part-time quack (wife) to support.

    Perhaps the news from the Royal Courts of Justice this week will be a further spur to an act of generosity and kindness, however obviously uncharactistic.

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