Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2017 scientific society talks in London blog post

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Mini social media icons - feel free to use

A while back I realised I wanted some small icons to use on our chi+med pages - we have a big list of upcoming and previous conferences and I thought people might be interested in knowing what the official Twitter account might be, or the hashtag was. More fun (for me!) to annotate these with colourful pictures so that's what I've made. I've recently started collecting some of the hashtagged tweets via Storify and the ones I've done so far are here.

Some of the icons were created from scratch or from a cropped screenshot of the native logo (in its place, on the relevant page) and then miniaturised for our pages. I did this by copying and pasting the screenshot into Paint (PC), removed extraneous material and then pasted the cropped image into Powerpoint where I resized it, then right-click, save as image (.png files). They scale perfectly well on mobile devices although if really enlarged they don't look particularly good, but they serve my purposes well.


I'm not sure of the copyright for these - clearly I don't own any of the images other than the hashtag and document ('proceedings') ones which were created from scratch. So I hope you don't get into trouble if you use the other ones, in much the same way I hope I don't either ;)

The link for each is given individually below and this is the zipped file of all of them.












1 Twitter
2 Hashtag
3 Storify
4 Facebook
5 LinkedIn
6 Google+
7 Document icon
8 Envelope / mailing list icon




Wednesday, 20 February 2013

How to grab the RSS feed from a Blogger tag

How to get an update whenever a new post on Blogger is tagged with a keyword of interest

Blogger calls tags on posts 'labels' for some reason, though it doesn't appear to have cottoned on for the need for categories as well (or I've not found out how to do that).

The labels for this post are howto (as in 'how to' do something), RSS and tags and can be seen below.

If you were interested in getting an RSS feed that would let you keep an eye only on the posts on this blog that included 'how to' instructions for something, the link you'd want would be:

http://brodiesnotes.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default/-/howto

Generic version http://blogname.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default/-/labelname
- put the relevant blog name in the bit in bold and change the labelname bit to the tag / label of your choice.

You can add this feed URL to any RSS reader that you use (for automatic updating purposes) or just bookmark it and view it periodically in a web browser (no use for automatic updating of course but it still gives you the information).


This useful tip came from a Google search resulting in
http://support.google.com/blogger/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=53336





Places in London that do talks and events that I like going along to

Checked and updated August 2016

My own hand-picked list of places in London.

Interesting talks in London: Individually listed talks

Science and culture

Music, film and arts culture





Tuesday, 19 February 2013

How to grab the search results URL from NCBI PubMed

For those familiar with PubMed
It's the 'See more...' link below the rectangular box on the right, once you've done a search - click that and then select the 'URL' button that appears below the box on the new page.

New readers start here
When you run a very basic search on PubMed (eg literally just typing aspartame insulin) the URL of the page changes from

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed to 
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=aspartame+insulin

If you then add a filter (look on the left hand side for the 'species' filter) so that you're only looking at results of studies done in humans then the URL returns to

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed

which is a bit disheartening if you want to email it to someone and say 'hey look what I found'.

There is a way round that but I think that, in most cases (within reason), the URL of the page should reflect what the page is doing (except where you've had to log in of course). Mind you if I'd been in charge of this from the start we'd have never had frames.

First catch your URL 
Have a look at the right hand side of the page (you might have to scroll down a bit) for the 'Search details' box where you can see how PubMed has converted your typed in search words into a properly built search. Below the box (on the right) is a 'See more...' link - click it.

You're now on the 'Search details' page, there's another box and below it are two buttons one of which says 'URL' - click that and you'll be taken to a page of search results. At the top of the page, where the web address / URL is (ie the address bar) is a plain text version of the URL which has spaces in it and doesn't look that URL-y. However once you click on it and copy it, and paste it anywhere else it should automatically fill in the spaces and even if it doesn't, when pasted into a browser it will work as a web address and take you to a copy of those search results.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=%28%28%22aspartame%22[MeSH%20Terms]%20OR%20%22aspartame%22[All%20Fields]%29%20AND%20%28%22insulin%22[MeSH%20Terms]%20OR%20%22insulin%22[All%20Fields]%29%29%20AND%20%22humans%22[MeSH%20Terms]&cmd=DetailsSearch




Does aspartame have any effect on insulin production?

I think there was an article in one of the tabloids recently which implied that drinking diet soda might increase weight gain - I didn't pay too much attention to it to be honest as I assumed that it would simply be down to larger people offsetting a few calories with a low calorie drink.

But then a pal asked if I knew of anything in the literature that looks at the effect of aspartame on insulin production (I think in people with diabetes rather than the general population). I didn't.

Since I've not been working at Diabetes UK for almost a year and no longer do literature reviews and whatnot I'm perhaps a bit rusty, so feel free to join in and help us out :)

I did a very basic search on PubMed at http://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez so that it was only searching within papers that were reporting on work done in humans. Undoubtedly there will be umpteen million papers claiming doom and gloom about aspartame, based on work done in mice. That's not to discount that work and it may well be useful in pointing to interesting things to study, it's just I would avoid rushing to conclusions based on that.

And to be honest I'd avoid rushing to any conclusions anywhere along the line in this process.

So... I wanted to search for insulin aspartame (where these words appear in the title, keywords or abstract etc) and I wanted to filter the results so that only those articles relating to human were returned.

This scary long URL might do the trick http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=%28%28%22aspartame%22[MeSH%20Terms]%20OR%20%22aspartame%22[All%20Fields]%29%20AND%20%28%22insulin%22[MeSH%20Terms]%20OR%20%22insulin%22[All%20Fields]%29%29%20AND%20%22humans%22[MeSH%20Terms]&cmd=DetailsSearch

Clicking on that will bring up 39 (at time of writing) abstracts and it will also populate the search box with the search terms, so these can be tweaked to suit.

Things I would look out for might include - teeny tiny studies where only a handful of people were involved, studies where the people didn't have diabetes or were unusual in their diabetes (newly diagnosed or perhaps people with Type 2 not yet on any medication etc), studies in people who consume an abnormally large volume of unsugared soft drinks and who also use other unsugared products heavily. Also see if any studies specifically mention insulin secretion or changes in insulin production and how this is measured.

That might be a place to start.




I wish PDFs had a 'make single column' button...

...to save scrolling down one side of the page, scrolling up again and then scrolling back down the other side. Sometimes I do copy and paste the text into something else and sort that out myself but maybe Adobe could put this in one of their many, many, many updates.

Edit 14 March 2014 - potentially solved! If you have Adobe Reader X (which apparently I do, as it sort of worked) open your two column PDF, press Ctrl+4 [not the numeric keypad 4 but the one below the $ symbol] and wait patiently while the file is shoogled into a single column format. Amazing! 

The downside is that success is very dependent on the quality of the formatting of the PDF - and since most PDFs are presumably not intended to be read in this way results might be a bit hit and miss. The example PDF below renders like this, ie a bit Latin withallthewordshavingnospaces between them. I can read it OK but goodness knows why anyone ever wants to have double columns in a PDF in the first place.

 


Original post

Here's what I have (click to enlarge)...



...here's what I want

I made this myself in Paint on my PC but I can't keep doing that ;)

The paper shown is Blandford, A., Cauchi, A., Curzon, P., Eslambolchilar, P., Furniss, D., Gimblett, A., Huang, H., Lee, P., Li, Y., Masci, P., Oladimeji, P., Rajkomar, A., Rukšėnas, R., & Thimbleby, H. (2011). Comparing actual practice and user manuals: A case study based on programmable infusion pumps. Proceedings of the 1st International Workshop on Engineering Interactive Computing Systems for Medicine and Health Care (EICS4Med), 59–64.

Monday, 18 February 2013

How to make sequential numbers appear in Excel

Index
1. How to make sequential numbers appear in Excel
2. How to get rid of R1C1 (row one column one) references and return it to cell E3 etc

I am using Microsoft Office (Professional Plus) 2010, at work.


1. How to make sequential numbers appear in Excel
I have often wondered how people manage to do this and today I found out - it's pretty easy. The instructions can be found from Microsoft's online help pages but I've added pretty pictures below.

Here's some nice music, from Patience and Prudence to accompany things (most recently used in an advert about flying on aeroplanes).



1. Type a couple of examples of the sequence of numbers you want - it seems to assume if you type 1 and then 2 that the next number in the sequence will be 3. I've not tried 2,4,6 but I assume it can handle that too.

2. Tell Excel where the source examples are for your number sequence, ie highlight the two cells with your numbers in them. The little white cross cursor doesn't show up when I took the screenshot but I managed to find one online and added it in myself.



3. Move the cursor so it's touching the highlighted cells and it will change to this black cross form (again it didn't show up in screenshot so I've had to add it in, thanks to this site).

Get ready to click and drag downwards...

4. The picture on the left shows what happens when you click and drag the cursor, and on the right it shows what happens when you let go - it fills up with numbers.

You can extend this by doing the same process on numbers 17 and 18 (in cells A18 and A19) to tell it what the sequence is going to be and then dragging further downwards.






















2. How to get rid of R1C1 (row one column one) references and return it to cell E3 etc
File / Options / Formulas
De-tick R1C1 reference style, OK


Other search terms: how to make a line of numbers appear, how to make a column of numbers, how to number a list,

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

How to back up or download your blog that is hosted on free sites eg Blogger

Short version: get hold of a copy of the XML file for your blog. This contains all of the information (posts, site hierarchy, comments) in one convenient web file that can be used to relaunch your blog in case of disaster.



This post is for people like me, who have their blog hosted on sites like Blogger, Wordpress.com or Posterous. I've no idea about setting up, or backing up, a self-hosted blog (where you interact with a server). If someone who knows more about that fancies contributing a few lines for me to add here... that would be nice.

Things you can do now while your blog is still up and running
Remember, backing up your blog isn't a one-time thing but something you might want to do every few days or weeks (depending on how frequently you blog). Probably there's some way to automate this process but if there is, I don't know it.

1. Backing up your blog

Blogger (Google)
To download blog, click on the 'Design' icon at the top of your blog (being logged in) and then click on the Settings | Other menu, then click "Export Blog" and choose the Download option. You will then be saving an .xml file which you can keep safe until you need to import it into another blog host.
From http://support.google.com/blogger/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=97416

Posterous
http://posterous.com/#backup - then click on the Request Backup button for your blog(s).

WordPress
Go to your blog(s)' site admin area (stick /wp-admin/ after the end of your blog's address).
In the menu on the left click on Tools | Export and choose the free option which gives you an xml file
 
Tumblr
I am less familiar with this one so have taken advice from Google but it seems that the following option may help:
• HTTrack (this will back up any website to be honest, I use it for other purposes)
• See also all Tumblr posts tagged with Tumblr backup

2. Mirroring your blog while it's still up and running

I have a copy of this very blog at Blogger.com over at Wordpress.com though it's private as it's confusing to have two copies of the same information, I also have the xml files of blogs I'd be annoyed to lose.

You can mirror your blog in two ways I think.
(1) Authorise the two blog hosts to talk to each other and let the software do the importing for you
(2) Import a blog using your xml file (obviously this ought to work whether or not your original blog is up and running or suspended).

Importing into Wordpress from another site
• Create account and new blog to house your content
• Stick /wp-admin/import.php on the end of your blog's address to go to the admin / import site (or use Tools | Import) - you can choose to import from several different blogging platforms including Blogger, Posterous or Tumblr.
• You'll then be asked to authorise Wordpress to interact with your original blog and you can then import the posts.

Importing into Blogger from another site (not sure if this will work)
Not sure if this will work using the xml setting as it says 'import from a Blogger xml' rather than just any old xml - I can't see how one xml differs from any other but 'more research needed'. Apparently there is a Wordpress to Blogger conversion tool if your 'another site' is Wordpress.

• Create an account and set up a new blog at http://www.blogger.com/home.
• If doing so takes you to a different page, go back to the link above (home)
• To the right of your new blog is an orange pencil symbol (create new post) a couple of other icons and a 'view blog' icon. Click on the small down arrow between them to bring up the options, choose Settings | Other and then Import blog from the options along the top
• Upload your xml file and hope for the best.

See also Blogger's own advice on importing and exporting blogs (also mentioned above).

Recovering your posts when it's a bit late for the above
1. Stick your blog's URL into Google and capture what you can from Google's cache. You can also remove the http:// bit and replace it with cache: to do this.

The result will be pages of search results and so will involve quite a bit of labour in capturing them all, you can use 'File / Save page as...' to save them to your hard drive.

Edit: Alan Heness has suggested the following, accessed by using a Web Cache extension for the Chrome browser. Some of these I confess I've never heard of :)

Google's cache
Yahoo's cache
Bing's cache
CoralCDN
WebCite
GigaBlast
Wayback Machine

2. Once on a cached page make note of any table of contents or archives for each month. Google will return your blog's posts in no particular order making it difficult to know if you've got everything. It's much easier to know what you're searching for and you can also get hold of a cached copy of your month by month archives - the purpose of this is to bring up a page with the title and links of your posts for that month. The links themselves won't work if your blog is down but, again, stick cache: in front of them to see if you can grab a cached copy from Google.

3. Use the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine to find older posts if Google cache doesn't have them. Note also that Google Cache might not have very recently published posts.

Background
This post arose after a few posts and entire blogs I enjoy reading were apparently taken down including the Retraction Watch website (see also ArsTechnica on the story), the 21st Floor and Josephine Jones' blog (the latter turned out to be a glitch, I've done it myself when importing my blog to Wordpress - I triggered their spam warning and had to ask them to restore it, which they did within a couple of hours although it looks like someone is keen to see it taken down [copy]).

In the case of Retraction Watch (RW) a seemingly mistaken DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) 'takedown' request was made to the organisation hosting RW's blog (Wordpress) stating that RW had posted material that belonged to someone else. Nonsense as this may be it seems that the effect of DMCA takedowns are more like 'shoot first, ask questions later'. Similarly blogs can be terminated for violation of terms of service.

Sometimes blogs get it wrong and post stuff that isn't theirs to post, so fair enough, other times it's just a blunt tool to remove perfectly valid but perhaps inconvenient information.

Chilling Effects is a site where people can upload their DMCA notices - the site is collecting and commenting on them (not all are unreasonable). They also have an online DMCA counter claim if you believe your material has been removed in error.

Be careful about putting in a claim or counter-claim - you may be committing a crime if you're wrong.

If you spot any mistakes or omissions in methods listed above please let me know, thanks.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Mildly diverting subtitle glitch on my television - also mildly amusing

While my hearing's fine I like subtitles for two reasons - I often find that I get more info about what's going on if I have them on including names and places and how things are spelled and, on adverts and some television programmes they tell you what the music is and subtitle the lyrics too.

I've noticed on a few occasions that the subtitles are for a completely a different programme... here are a couple of examples which made me laugh.

Why do the subtitles get decoupled from the programme though - what's going on? Will the wrong subtitles come from the same channel type (eg would I only get BBC subtitles for a BBC programme and ITV subtitles for an ITV channel?) or is it anything to do with which channel multiplex the two programmes are on, or something else?
Owly Images


Owly Images 



Comedy giraffes - mis-subtitled BBC David Attenborough programme from jobrodie on Vimeo.

David Attenborough's Africa featuring giraffes that are seemingly participating in a very different programme. It's me trying not to giggle in the background.






#Burzynski - is this normal clinical trial practice?

The year before last I wrote a blog post expressing surprise at how many trials the Burzynski Clinic had running and after recent events (rumours that the Burzynski clinic is under unprecedented scrutiny from the FDA, but note this caveat tweeted by @medtek) I wondered what had changed.

Back in November 2011 I found 61 trials, this year by searching for the name Burzynski it seems there are now 62 (however the last one, this trial, actually relates to a completely different Burzynski so no change in numbers at all, h/t @dianthusmed).

It also appears that there have been more trials but not all of them registered, according to a paragraph on a page from 1998 on Quackwatch's website, highlighted to me by @jonmendel
"Working outside peer review, Burzynski is conducting 71 concurrent, preliminary phase II trials that cover most cancer indications-an unheard of number for a single investigator, and for a drug which is yet to be proven effective for any indication."

What struck me was that the ones I looked at on the first page (of 'unknown' status) all follow the same format of "Antineoplaston therapy in treating X (patients) with Y (type of cancer)" and all on the first page (shown below) are followed by this line (indicating the type of treatment given) appears below all of them: Interventions:     Drug: antineoplaston A10;   Drug: antineoplaston AS2-1

From the first page of results (brown = status unknown for more than two years, red = withdrawn, purple = terminated, green = completed - though is it published and what happened?):
  • Antineoplaston Therapy in Treating Patients With Stage IV Adrenal Gland Cancer
  • Antineoplaston Therapy in Treating Patients With Residual or Recurrent Anaplastic Astrocytoma
  • Antineoplaston Therapy in Treating Patients With Brain Tumors
  • Antineoplaston Therapy in Treating Children With Brain Tumors
  • Antineoplaston Therapy in Treating Children With Low-Grade Astrocytoma
  • Antineoplaston Therapy in Treating Patients With Anaplastic Astrocytoma 
  • Antineoplaston Therapy in Treating Patients With Recurrent or Refractory Mixed Gliomas
  • Antineoplaston Therapy in Treating Patients With Primary Malignant Brain Tumors
  • Antineoplaston Therapy in Treating Children With Primary Malignant Brain Tumors
  • Antineoplaston Therapy in Treating Children With Visual Pathway Glioma
  • Antineoplaston Therapy in Treating Patients With Refractory or Recurrent Intermediate-Grade Stage II, Stage III, or Stage IV Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma
  • Antineoplaston Therapy in Treating Patients With Recurrent or Refractory High-Grade Stage II, Stage III, or Stage IV Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma
  • Antineoplaston Therapy in Treating Patients With Mantle Cell Lymphoma
  • Antineoplaston Therapy in Treating Patients With Primary Central Nervous System Lymphoma
  • Antineoplaston Therapy in Treating Patients With Advanced Mesothelioma
  • Antineoplaston Therapy in Treating Patients With Stage IV Melanoma
  • Antineoplaston Therapy in Treating Patients With Multiple Myeloma
  • Antineoplaston Therapy in Treating Patients With Recurrent or Refractory Waldenstrom's Macroglobulinemia
  • Antineoplaston Therapy in Treating Patients With Metastatic, Recurrent, or Refractory Neuroblastoma
  • Antineoplaston Therapy in Treating Patients With Neuroendocrine Tumor That Is Metastatic or Unlikely to Respond to Surgery or Radiation Therapy
Are all these trials running at the same time? The way the titles are written it seems as if the antineoplastons A10 and AS2-1 are being trialled in children and adults with a fairly broad range of cancer types (or stages of a particular cancer type).

Searching for antineoplaston A10 brings up 61 hits and searching for antineoplaston AS2-1 brings up 60, so possibly there's at least one Burznyski trial listed in the 62 that has nothing to do with antineoplastons (could be someone with the same name of course).

Is that usual where the type or stage of cancer has a very poor prognosis and no-one has the luxury of time to wait and see how these ANPs perform in one situation before trying them in the next?

For comparison I had a look at GLP-1 and spotted a few that had similar titles, but there seemed to be much more variance in title, and trial status. One is even listed as having results...

Feb 2012 - Searching just for the antineoplaston A10 trials, we get 61 of which:
  • 0 are recruiting
  • 50 are of unknown status
  • 7 are withdrawn
  • 2 are terminated
  • 1 is completed
  • 0 are active, not recruiting
  • 1 is not yet recruiting
Note that Unknown status incorporates some of the other categories
UNKNOWN (RECRUITMENT STATUS)
A clinical study in ClinicalTrials.gov with a status of Recruiting; Not yet recruiting; or Active, not recruiting and whose status has not been confirmed within the past 2 years. Studies with an Unknown recruitment status are considered open studies or closed studies, depending on their last recorded recruitment status.

Nov 2011 - Here's what I found in November 2011 (but I think I searched on Burzynski rather than antineoplaston A10 so there's a caveat there)
  • 10 are recruiting
  • 35 are of unknown status
  • 7 are withdrawn
  • 2 are terminated
  • 1 is completed - it began in March 1996 and was completed in 2005. Its clinical identifier is NCT00003509 and this does not appear anywhere in PubMed.
  • 5 are active, not recruiting
  • 1 is not yet recruiting

While writing this post @majikthyse also published a post on the Burzynski Clinic which makes very interesting reading.

Comments relating to conspiracy theories or personal attacks on anyone will be ignored.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

I hope lots of medical research charities will sign the #alltrials petition

UPDATE 9 February 2013: The AMRC (Association of Medical Research Charities) signed the petition yesterday morning - but of course I'd still like to see other health / patient charities (AMRC members and non-members) signing up.

Update 12 February 2013: A whole bunch of medical research charities have signed as part of a big gang of patient groups, including my beloved former employer Diabetes UK - hooray :D
http://www.alltrials.net/supporters/pin-statement/


"Trials with positive results are twice as likely to get reported as negative results," Goldacre said. "You can't make informed decisions about which treatment is best for the patient on the basis of just half the results, especially as it's the unflattering ones that are withheld."
Source: GlaxoSmithKline to publish clinical trial data, The Guardian, 5 February 2013
There seems to have been widespread under-reporting of clinical trial data along with an incomplete record of registered trials in the first place. This makes it harder to track what happened next. It also means that healthcare professionals only have part of the picture available to them when looking at which medications to consider for their patients.

The #alltrials petition calls for all clinical trial reports to be published, not just the positive stuff.

I've heard of the petition mostly through following Ben Goldacre on Twitter where he's been enthusiastically tweeting about organisations who have signed, including a surprise entry from GSK (GlaxoSmithKline) today who are pretty much 'big pharma' by any definition, or haven't signed in the case of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, aka ABPI.

The Wellcome Trust has signed the petition and they are a big funder of medical research, they're also members of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) as are lots of other lovely charities and I hope those charities might also sign this petition.

Signing is A Good Thing and as Ben says in his recent blog post "The eccentric position is now not supporting alltrials.net. There is no serious defense for withholding information about clinical trials from doctors and patients. It is simply unethical, and it harms patients."

All Trials
Click to visit the AllTrials site

It's important to have all the information to know which drug to prescribe (or which drug to take) but it's also important to know about other problems with drugs that might show up only after the drug is on the market when many more people are taking it. This is 'postmarketing surveillance' (the drug is now on the market and regulatory people keep their beady eyes on it to spot any problems).

Conveniently I heard a discussion about precisely this topic on Radio 4 this evening - Dr Margaret McCartney and someone from the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority) were discussing, with host Dr Mark Porter, how anyone - you don't have to be a doctor to do this - anyone can use the MHRA's Yellow Card scheme to report any side effect that they experience when taking any medicine.

The scheme was opened up to the public a few years ago - previously it had been just healthcare professionals that would fill these cards in. Now anyone can fill in the 'card' online. The MHRA has noticed that the number of these filled-in reports is dropping and is keen to raise awareness of the yellow card scheme.



Saturday, 2 February 2013

Quick random thoughts on Vitamin D

I'm writing this at a conference so treat it as provisional as I'm on battery power and not doing my normal fact-checking. Bits in pink are bits I need to reference.

It's a while since I've really looked in any depth at the evidence for, or against, Vitamin D as something that people might want to use as a supplement. My interest in it stems from my time at Diabetes UK when there were a few questions from people about its particular value as something that might generally 'help' either in preventing diabetes from starting, or reduce complications or other helpful things.

At the time I first started looking into this I don't think there had been any intervention trials where people (with a particular type of diabetes) were split into groups, one lot given Vit D and the other not and the outcomes compared.

There were plenty of studies looking at Vitamin D status (eg how much Vitamin D or its metabolites is zinging around in your blood) and outcomes, which were interesting, but I never really felt I understood what Vit D status tells you. Vit D exists in several forms - there are one or two coming in via diet but they are immediately tweaked first by the liver to another form and then the kidney to another one (or possibly the other way around!). Your skin is also capable of rustling up a bit of Vitamin D all by itself.

So what's in your blood could be a consequence of what's in your diet or from the sun, or from what's going on with the enzymes that do this conversion. I also can't help wondering if, given that Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, gaining or losing weight makes a big difference to Vitamin D concentrations in the blood.

How good a predictor for health outcomes or diabetes complications etc is how much Vitamin D (metabolites) you have in your blood? Dunno.

But then I thought... fat soluble vitamins

I seem to remember that Vitamin A, essential for retinal goings on etc, can be a bit of a problem if you have too much of it. Vague recollections of giving polar bear livers a swerve as the content of Vitamin A can floor you. Vitamin A is fat soluble.

Vitamin E was touted as some life saving thing for people who'd had heart attacks I think? There was a trial looking at Vit E with some other vitamins or medication and it turned out that it wasn't such a great idea to use this. I mean obviously you need some of it but 'some of it being good for you' doesn't translate, not that surprisingly, to 'lots more of it is therefore also good for you'. Vitamin E is fat soluble.

Vitamin K plays an important role in blood clotting and I was surprised to learn recently that eating too much spinach (rich in Vitamin K) was perhaps contributing to unexpected INR (international normalised ratio - which is how the speed of blood clotting is measured) in someone using warfarin. High Vitamin K foods interact with warfarin, which can be potentially a bit of a problem. Vitamin K is fat soluble.

Are fat soluble vitamins something we want to be a bit more careful with, in terms of hoovering them up as supplements? I suppose to answer that I need to avoid positive confirmation bias of happening to know off the top of my head which are the fat-soluble vitamins and find out what dangers there are from all the water-soluble vitamins. To be honest I thought most of them just got peed out but I expect I should mug up on it.

Anyway, unintended consequences and all that - apparently Vitamin D supplementation can negatively affect your lipid profile. I suppose I should go and look up the reference for that, I hate it when people don't cite stuff properly...



How to share your Twitter archive via your public Dropbox

This is a lot easier than I thought it was going to be, and it worked instantly. I'm still investigating the 'ethics' side of sharing all four plus years of my tweets publicly - not that I've said anything terribly exciting but I might need to think about the people I've intereacted with*. So I'm not sharing the link to my tweets quite yet.

You will need
1. Think about tweets you've sent and whether there's anything in there that might embarrass your friends, let alone yourself. Just because you can now share your past tweet history it doesn't mean that you should.

Download
2. If you've not downloaded your Twitter archive you'll need to do that first. Go to your Settings page or if you're logged in just click https://twitter.com/settings/account, scroll down the page until you see the 'Request your archive' link, click that and wait for an email to arrive. Once it arrives click on the link to download a zipped file of your tweets and accessory information (making them look nice on screen and searchable). Unzip the file.

Further details on downloading and playing with your Twitter archive can be found here.

2.5. Double click on index.html and your offline Twitter archive will open. You can search your old tweets and see what's there, or browse by clicking on the month in the panel on the right. Each tweet gives you the option to view the 'live' version on Twitter - where you can delete it if you wish, or copy its URL / embed it into blog posts or Storify etc.

Make available to others
3. Move the 'tweets' folder into your Public folder in Dropbox.
Might as well move all of the folder contents but I may work out which are the minimum essential files to move - to be honest the readme.txt file doesn't really participate in accessing your tweets

4. [Optional] You can rename the tweets folder if you want, not really essential. You can also rename the index.html file - again not essential but if lots of people are sharing their Twitter archives in this way then it doesn't hurt to stick your Twitter name in the address.

Share public link so others can see and search your tweets
6. Right-click / or Ctrl+Click for Mac (not cmd click) on whatever you've now called your index.html to bring up the menu, click on the Dropbox menu option and then 'Copy Public Link' which is now copied to your clipboard and can be pasted in a tweet or blog post or wherever you want to put it.

It will look a bit like: https://dl.dropbox.com/u/12345678/tweets_folder_name/your_name.html#

Once you've shared the link don't change the name of the file on Dropbox - or if you do you'll need to reshare the new link.

*A tweet is not an island. When you click on it to expand or 'view conversation' you can see the discussions that have gone on around it. Of course all these conversations probably happened in the public sphere (given that any tweet sent from a not-locked account is public) but I think it is a little different when you suddenly make the pointers to tweets that are several months or years old more easily available again. That's not to say historic tweets have been particularly well hidden - topsy.com can find all sorts of old stuff.

I don't know if tweets sent four years ago by someone who's since made their account private will now inherit their new privacy status (or vice versa) but I want to find out a little more about it before unleashing all my tweets, and manual RTs of other people's tweets (which will persist even if they've deleted the original) etc.

It would be interesting if I knew how to make this password protected, then could share just with mates and researchers. Don't think that option is available at the level of Dropbox but I'm sure there's a way around it.

Random observations
I wonder if people will have their Twitter archives subpoenaed - it's suddenly become possible for everyone with an account to gain access to all of their previous tweets (including the option to find and delete tweets from much further back than the default 3,200 that you can scroll back through). Presumably far easier to get them from an individual than from Twitter, though I am not a lawyer.