Number of the Month

January 2010

Epistle to the Number Watchers

Note: this piece is intended for regular readers and is unlikely to be of interest to casual visitors.

Apologies overdue

Yet again, apologies for the recent absence. It was due to the usual health reasons, of which more below. Apologies also for unanswered e-mails. I used to claim that all were read, but this fell apart during the brush with death from pneumonia, which resulted in the only gap in the sequence of Numbers of the Month in mid-2008. There are still unfortunately several hundred unread messages from that time.

Thanks overdue

First of all, thanks to the donors who have made the continuation of the site possible. That small collection of patrons and their messages of support have induced a will to go on. Other supportive messages have also been important. A regular group of correspondents keep up a flow of relevant information, more than I can deal with directly, but greatly appreciated. It would be invidious, as they say, to name just a few. One, however, who must be named, is Our Man in Puerto Rico, Jaime Arbona, who has been a tower of strength from the very beginning.

Especial thanks also to the regular contributors to our Forum. They have kept it entertaining, informative and moderate. The threads are of reasonable length and largely stick to the point at issue. I find it heart-dropping after an interesting blog entry to see that there are 350 comments, when you know that most of them will be irrelevant, semi-literate or plain abusive. Thanks to the donors we have been able to free the forum of advertisements. It is sad that most of the blogs in our list are full of adverts that are in direct opposition to the blog content. It is a measure of the wealth behind the environmental and other scams.

Thanks are due to those who have suggested entries to the warmlist. This has been a very popular page, with links all over the web and quotations by various broadcasters. I am beginning to understand why Conan Doyle tried to kill off Sherlock Holmes.

One beneficial change over the years has been the appearance of new powerful blogs, such as Watt’s up with that, Climate Audit and the irreplaceable Sandy. Fortunately, Junk Science is still with us, though we still miss the great John Daly. Thanks to these comprehensive sites I have been able to play the part of the dilettante, picking up trifles here and there, without undue guilt.

Under attack

It goes with the territory that sceptical websites will come under attack from believers. For example, the order forms for the Number Watch books have been the subject of sabotage. Thousands of forms have been received that are filled with random characters and the forms have had to be abandoned. One day in December there were eleven thousand hits on this web site, which is more than twice the usual daily peak. Investigation established that the extra hits only looked at the home page, which contains no information. It looks rather like an attempted Denial of Service. Some web sites of similar ilk have been celebrating great increases in traffic, but they might well be the victims of DoS attacks. The amount of spam and junk mail is overwhelming. The filters seem to be fairly efficient, but some genuine messages might have been lost in the process. There are still some, especially China based, that get through, to much irritation, and some even have the audacity to use our own address as the basis of a spoof. O what a tangled web we weave!

And about the books

One of the consequences of the domestic problems is that we are obliged to withdraw the supply of books via UK bookshops and Amazon. What was possible for a husband and wife team is just too much for a cripple and his carer. The business has been running at a loss, for two main reasons. One is the Amazon effect. The Amazon “Advantage” scheme for small publishers demands that the publishers offer a fifty percent discount plus the costs of postage. This meant that the major proportion of the sales were at cost or, subsequently, less. The other factor is the small proportion of bad payers among the bookshops. Chasing them is an expensive and time-consuming occupation.

Ironically there has been a great demand for The Epidemiologists that we have been unable to fulfill. 

The remaining stock of books will be sold solely through this web site and one of the many outstanding jobs to be done is to modify the relevant pages to this effect. Incidentally, apologies are also due to a number of customers who have not yet received books for which they have paid. That is another job in hand, but reminders would be helpful.

Health matters

It is unBritish to go into details about one’s health problems, but perhaps in this case an explanation is needed. A defective immune system and reactive arthritis make an unfortunate combination. Old number watchers will be familiar with the periodic absences of the bending author with lung infections. These were invariably followed by outbreaks of arthritic inflammation. What I underestimated was the degree to which the damage was cumulative and permanent. A turning point was the decision to accept an invitation to address a conference in Gothenburg. I knew that airlines were a hazard for me (owing to the reduction in air filtering following the smoking ban) but I grossly underestimated the consequences.

The latest bout at the end of last year started with toothache. It was a minor gum infection, caused by a damaged tooth; easily dealt with, but a few days later my one good knee ballooned. The resulting descent into further crippledom has necessitated a further degree of adjustment and the paraphernalia of disablement. I now have arthritis almost everywhere, even in my cat. Still, there are always compensations: the cat enjoys a ride on the stair lift.  The reason that these episodes are so disruptive is that they are followed by a period of overwhelming lassitude. I held out for the sake of the Numby award ceremony, but January has been a washout, for which due apologies: just time to fit in a Number of the Month.

Number of the month – 12

This is the number of patients in the sample used by Andrew Wakefield and colleagues to create one of the biggest health scares of the decade. It was first covered in these pages in February 2002 and several times subsequently. The mills of justice grind slowly but at last they have produced a verdict. He has now been found to be Callous, unethical and dishonest’. In the intervening years there have been outbreaks of measles and one child death.

As the monstrous edifice of Climate Change begins to show widening cracks, despite the desperate efforts of the New Establishment to patch over the damage, it is encouraging to see a come-uppance for an egregious practitioner of junk science. This does not, of course, prove that his hypothesis is wrong, though there is now a substantial body of evidence that this is so. It does, however, establish that he is a crook.


PS further apologies are due for the late uploading of this page, due to communication problems with the hosting service, now resolved.



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