Data: World Statistics Day And Access

20 October 2010 was UN sponsored World Statistics Day

The celebration of the World Statistics Day was meant to acknowledge the service provided by the global statistical system at national and international level, and hoped to help strengthen the awareness and trust of the public in official statistics. The day serves as an advocacy tool to further support the work of statisticians across different settings, cultures, and domains.

Official statistics are data produced and disseminated by national statistics offices, other government departments’ statistical units and indeed by many UN, international and regional statistical units.

In the UK the history of statistics ranges from the Domesday Book in 1086 when William I commissioned a detailed inventory of all the land and property in England and Wales. The results of this first major statistical enumeration were set out in the Domesday Book. To the statistical order in 2009 for the Pre-release Access to Official Statistics.

The latest order decreases the time that journalists, and others, have access to statistics prior to their official release. The five day period has been decreased to a maximum of 24 hours to be exceeded only for exceptional circumstances.

I mention this last and latest act because data driven journalism has been able to flourish with the advent of available data – free or inexpensive – and with access to software that allows its manipulation. Previous Data columns have explored some ways in access and exploitation –in the nicest possible sense – have been pursued. This column is a reminder that access to data is governed by those who create it and as such its availability is not always certain.

A useful resource for connecting and meeting other people interested in data driven journalism is the European Journalism Centre and the group Data Driven Journalism: http://community.ejc.net/group/datadrivenjournalism.

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Hiding At The End Of The Day, Bristol

Baby B: versus the Midwife

“So you decided not to have the Down Syndrome screening test?” the midwife asked me.
“Um no.. I didn’t decide, I thought I’d already had it”.
“No, it says clearly here that I explained to you about having the test” she pointed down at my notes.

At my 16 week appointment I had a different midwife, one who was only in England for a while and back to the US a couple of weeks later.

“I thought it was one of the blood tests” I said.
“No, I clearly explained to you on our first meeting…” and this is all she said as she pointed out in the notes that the word ‘explained’ was written down.

It was now too late to have the test and she was on the defensive because my lack of knowledge may possibly have put her in an awkward position (legally?). She explained again to me about the screening tests, that they were accurate about 60 to 65% of the time and were likely to present many false positives. This means that the risk may be seen as high when in fact it is not. Serum screening is a blood test that screens for Down’s syndrome, usually at around 16 weeks of pregnancy. It measures three or four pregnancy-associated chemicals to assess the chances of having a baby with Down’s syndrome.

I mentioned that it wasn’t offered to me the last time I saw some one but she went back to pointing at the book so I just agreed with her when she asked if I would have declined it. It was too late now for anything of course and I felt like a horrible ‘almost’ mother. At some point I had given up finding out about the pregnancy and just let things happen. I figured that I would be told about anything I needed to know and was upset to be confronted with such an important thing passing me by.

I also realised yesterday that whilst I received my MATB 1 certificate, the all important bit of paper for my maternity leave, I didn’t get a claim form for the pregnancy grant. My fault again. Things are passing by so quickly.

My next appointment is in three weeks as they now get more frequent. Could be that it’s all starting to feel a little more real.

Slowly Waking Up To The Day, Bristol

Love Cooking Festival, Bristol

Whenever I brag and rave about Bristol, I tend to mention the festivals that are such a huge part of life here. Sometimes there’s one every weekend, I say and what I really mean is that they’re all the same, pick one and go to it and you’ll find the same stands, the same crafts, the same people wandering in and then leaving again. Some charge and some don’t and occasionally that seems to be the biggest difference.

With this thought in mind, there wasn’t much surprise when reading about the Love Cooking Festival although its location at Colston Hall was an interesting twist. However, who would want to go see people cooking on stage at around £20 a ticket? A visit seemed to be a good idea.

Richard Allen was the first chef I saw and she was announced on stage by Nigel Barden, the food and drink presenter for BBC London TV, Radio and Online.

Nigel did not just do the presenting and introductions but stayed on to help Rachel with the banter and consistency. She had been up since 2.30am to make her way to Bristol and my heart sank a little at the potential half-hearted performance. The show proceeded at a steady pace and Nigel filled in with chat for about half of it.

Rachel cooked a three course menu of Scallops with Brussel Sprouts, Bacon and Orange; Roast Duck Legs; Lentils with Red Wine and a Treacle Tart. Her commentary was consistent, her manner professional and by the end I thought I would try out the recipe. I couldn’t help but be distracted throughout the session, however, with crying babies, half empty rows of seats – it was held at 2pm – and general thoughts of ‘this would be just as good on TV’.

All the slight detachment disappeared when Ainsley came out to play. Ainsley Harriot was on between 4 and 5pm and he was magical. A well seasoned TV presenter who has hosted various TV shows and food specials and is probably best known to daytime viewers as the host of Ready, Steady, Cook for 20 seasons. His ease and charm with everyone in the room meant that Nigel’s role quickly became redundant as he sat back and also enjoyed the show.

Ainsley danced and cooked and sweated and told us all about his life. In the early 1990s he was part of the musical act Calypso Twins with schoolfriend Paul Boross and released a hit record in the early 1990s, “World Party”. We were treated to various renditions of calypso music throughout the show which accompanied his dishes. The chilli cornbread muffins were prepared as a side to Peppy’s Ackee And Salt Fish In De Pan which brought with it stories of his mum. The Chargrilled Jerk-Slashed Chicken brought up opportunities for banter with the audience and he even promised some food to a woman a few seats in front of me.

Ainsley stepped out into the crowd, joyfully hugged a woman celebrating her birthday, interviewed the catering college students from the City of Bristol College who helped out with the preparations, and brought to the stage an audience member tasked with tasting the wine and the food.

He put on a show and I would pay to see him again but I must confess it was Rachel’s duck dish for which I passed by a supermarket and bought the ingredients. The Love Cooking Festival in Bristol was a great example of how not all festivals are alike and there was not a Pieminister pie in sight.

Love Cooking Festival sessions: London, 2 November. Harrogate, 5 December. Tickets are still available.

The Colour of Her Hair



The Colour of Her Hair, originally uploaded by still awake.

Severnshed, Review

The view from the Severnshed is one of the loveliest in Bristol and it held my gaze for most of the evening although it was mainly the smokers who enjoyed the fresh air on the balcony. The lounge / bar area to the left of the entrance is suffused with warm lighting in a comforting dark wood environment. The restaurant to the right is spacious and has a similar set of doors that look out towards the floating harbour and the houses on Redcliffe.

The Severnshed changed owners in March 2010 to the same people who own Coal Grill and Bar at Cabot Circus although apparently the staff stayed in place. Monday night provided an opportunity to sample the new wine menu and some new dishes. There were four of each and I expect they were either chosen for their differences in order to demonstrate the range of the kitchen or because they were the best of what was available. I’m hoping it was the former.

The first combination was lime and chilli king prawn skewers seasoned with just salt and pepper, accompanied by an Australian Riesling. The prawns are on the starter menu for £6.95 and they were quite under seasoned with no hints of citrus or spice. In contrast, the pineapple addition to the skewer was juicy and had a just barbecued, sweetly grilled flavour. The wine, of which I had a taste was pleasant and chilled enough.

This was followed by chorizo with garlic oil accompanied paired with a rose cabernet sauvignon tempranillo. The spicy sausage flavoured with paprika was thickly cut, full of flavour and the best dish of the four. The rose had a nice colour and was suitable for the dish. The cost of the dish at the restaurant is £4.50 for a small dish or £11 for three dishes out of a selection.

The lobster risotto had an actual piece of lobster which was cooked from fresh. Sadly the dish was slightly under seasoned and the parmesan cheese added a gloopiness to the very well cooked rice which was interesting if not actually useful. I’ve had better risotto so not sure how happy I would have been with the menu price of £11.95 for the slight blandness which was served.

The last taste was a dish of beef on skewers in meatball sized portions. I managed one of mine but it took so long to chew that I didn’t bother with the second one. It was served with a more robust merlot red wine which was nice enough and could have been a good choice for a meal.

For most people the highlight of the evening seemed to be the service and the cocktail served at the start. For me it was the atmosphere and the view although the latter was slightly marred by the blackboard by the balcony doors which had a list of drink prices. At £4.50 for a pint of Westons Organic Cider it would have made an expensive round for two. This slightly spoiled any thoughts of a future visit although the chorizo promises that there may be some hidden treats on the menu. Despite the waterfront location, seafood was not a winner on this beautiful evening.