One wonders why

It was the appearance of this in the local press that left me wondering whether statisticians have become disembodied heads.

It was the appearance of this in the local press that left me wondering whether statisticians have become disembodied heads.

Whilst Coco has every sympathy for those who suffer from the disease of the body which we know as diabetes, Coco has little sympathy for those statisticians who though they are irrefragable in the use of the art to which they are devoted, show little or perhaps even no common sense.

The reporter who brought this matter to his attention does however at least stand one step of contempt above the reporter who recently published an article about the discovery of a decapitated head. Well, Coco has never seen nor even heard of such a thing, have you? Decapitated bodies are not uncommon, as are perhaps dismembered ones, but decapitated heads? It seems as unlikely as a dismembered arm. Perhaps the real intention was to say scalped head, you might ask, but no, the find was of a head, a whole head. One can however understand the dilemma of the reporter, this was clearly a head alone, not attached to any body, but to call it a disembodied head would hardly have conveyed the right impression, and in any event, a disembodied something would be rather difficult to find, given that that which is disembodied no longer has a material presence in this universe. Perhaps they really meant decapacitated, but shied away from a word which may only have reflected back upon themselves.

Coco was unable to find a complete copy of the article online, but you may read the article for yourself here:

One can hardly blame the reporter, poor chap, what does a reporter know about statistics? That question is rhetorical, in case it needs to be said. Coco is not unaware that there may be reporters who have had a good, and far better than Coco’s, grounding in such. But one is left wondering whether or not common sense has been applied.

It does not take much effort to see that the statistical result of two and a half times more likely is incorrect, whatever the results of the statistical analysis might yield. Coco would like to suggest that the answer is really much more like one hundred percent more likely, which is to say almost certainly going to be the case, if not actually in reality, without even the need to apply any statistical analysis at all. For it seems so very clear to Coco that although most young people die old, and many young people have died young, it is impossible that anyone who is old shall die young. Old people always die old. So then, let us read again what the article suggested: The risk of early death was 2,5 times greater for those diagnosed before 40 compared with those diagnosed after 60.

That is a wonderfully incredible statement. Please allow Coco to break it apart. In order to be able to say that one thing is greater than another we need to know, if not the absolute magnitude of the two things, the relative magnitude. In this case we are talking about a comparison of the level of risk. So we should have some idea of the level of risk faced by the two gorups, those who are under forty and those who are over sixty. Now perhaps first we should simplify the examination by removing from it the complicating factor of type 2 diabetes, and we shall adjust, if necessary, our findings later for that omission. We shall add a more general comment about mortality also.

So then we must determine what is the risk of dying young for a forty year old and for a sixty year old? Now Coco is not skilled in the arts of the actuary, but it does not seem unlikely to think that although a forty year old may die young, a sixty year old will never die young. Though if someone thinks that a sixty year old may die young, then it is likely that they have discovered the elixir of life for which the alchemists of yore vainly sought for centuries. Perhaps they would care to share their secret with Coco, or at least publish their results subject to peer review and set up production and marketing companies for the benefit of wider mankind. Oh, Coco apologises, you may have noticed, the mention of statistics does rather cause Coco to stray and indulge in flights of fantasy, unlike Leonardo of course who was the precursor of our own* Wright brothers..

So then, back to the point, for the sake of clarity and being able to do some calculations, without suggesting that the numbers are correct, let us say that the risk of dying young at age forty is 1% of 4‰. We have already said that there is no risk that a person diagnosed at age sixty will die young, such a thing is impossible, therefore the risk of dying young for this group is 0% of 4‰. We may then restate the point in the article as The risk of early death was 1%/0% times greater for those diagnosed before 40 compared with those diagnosed after 60.

Now all we need is a mathematician who can tell us how we can reduce the ratio 1:0 to a number that we shall understand. Coco thinks that it means this: The risk of early death was infinitely greater for those diagnosed before 40 compared with those diagnosed after 60.

This can be put in an even more blunt manner that the research suggested that it was certain that those who were diagnosed before 40 would succumb to an early death, whereas those who were diagnosed after age sixty would die, as expected, old. Coco remains unconvinced of the veracity of this argument, as it is clear that not all who are disagnosed before forty die young, some will die old. However, the mathematics suggests it, and incidently it would make no difference what the actual level of risk was for a forty year old (and we therefore do not need to enter a correction for the diagnosis or otherwise of the condition of type 2 diabetes), the result would always be certain, just as the statistics suggests that the ratio is 2.4.

Coco suggests that one should perhaps also note on the matter of increasing mortality with age, that if at age sixty you are discovered to have a condition which reduced life expectancy to about twenty years then at sixty when life expectancy is less than twenty years, it is perhaps of no great concern. You are likely to have been taken before the condition takes you. If however you are discovered to have this condition when you are only forty years of age, when your life expectancy may have been up to forty years, then you would view the condition in a different way and perhaps feel more threatened by it. The discovery of the condition for a forty year old increases the expectation of mortality significantly, but in a sixty year old hardly at all.

Given the uncertainty that this all provides, should we not be glad that there is one who knows all things and declares to us: ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he die shall live’ John 11:25. Those who trust the Lord Jesus Christ need not fear. Diabetes may shorten your life on this earth now, but he will raise us up again at the last day to live on a new earth in new bodies where there shall be no more death, from any cause, nor crying, nor tears, but all shall live in love and harmony with him and with one another.

*Much like Formosa, we are waiting for the colonies on the mainland of the American continent to acknowledge their lawful and ancestral ruler.
No doubt the erudite and skilled shall find much worthy of contempt in this the article of Coco, but Coco would wish to remind such that erudition, skill and facts should not be allowed to spoil a good story as long as it is properly recognised that it is indeed a good story.

One wonders why

It was the appearance of this in the local press that reminded me of a report from elsewhere that left me wondering why.

The story referenced above is devastating in the approach taken to hygiene in the kitchen but these give you reason to wonder.

I was reminded of a report from France. The restaurant, I shall not mention its name for reasons of good etiquette and not to be thought to rejoice over the ill-fortune of others, had been established since the days of the third republic and was renowned for the quality and voluptious nature of its fare. Only the best and the good would eat there, the rest would visit perhaps for a small drink, but rarely two, being quite wary of the generous sums afforded by its ménu.

As with all such establishments they were inevitably subject to an inspection by the local authorities.

After the first inspection the Inspectateuse imposed an order of Désistament. The restaurant quite naturally refused to comply with this order as it had not changed its behaviour since inception and the previous inspections had not had any reason to complain. We know however that standards do change and over time more is expected of businesses. One could say that the law becomes stricter, but it is perhaps society’s expectations that change.

Finding that the order of Désistement had been ignored the Inspectateuse indicated that the matter would be brought before the Officeur de Jurisprudence. The restaurateur appealed to the Conciliateur, who merely opined that had the matter been brought before him before an order to appear before the Officeur had been made he would of course have heard the matter, but in the circumstances his hands were tied unless any further order were made by the Officeur to bring the matter before him.

The Inspectateuse was unimpressed by the efforts of the Restauratuer to avoid justice and his apparantly careless attitude to both the order and now the appearance in the Court de Jurisprudence and prepared her case carefully. She would not as the English would say over egg the pudding but merely refer to some relatively straight forward breaches of standards.

The appearance before the Haut Magistrat did not go well. The Restaurateur had expected the petition of the parquet to be thrown out and had not prepared to take part in the débat contradictoire. This to was his great loss, and it would have been a better outcome for him if he had simply not appeared at all. The fine would be €20k. It was a significant sum, but not unaffordable. The Restaurateur consoled himself that the publicity surrounding the case would neither be detrimental to his honour nor to his business.

He indicated that he would wish the matter to be heard by the Court de Cassation, but in the meantime it would of course be necessary to pay the fine.

The court unusually had not ordered the destruction of the offending items of his victualry, and so he delivered one up to the hands of a famous auction house, who regularly held proceedings in Paris and New York for the disposition of such items. Indeed the matter quite exceeded everyone’s expecations. There was significant excitement that an unopened bottle of Napoleon III brandy was going on sale. There was no question of the authenticity of the wine as it had been in the hands of the restuarant since it had been purchased from a small shop in the Rue de Valois. It and several others had been in the safe keeping of the proprietors ever since.

The price in the auction rose quickly beyond the reserve but slowed as the hoped for target approached. Then at €22,500 the bidding tailed off until there were only two who tipped each other €10 at a time. The auctioneer was unhappy with this state of affairs and without denying that he would continue for as long as they wished to do so, asked if one of them would not mind bidding up €500 to put the other out of his misery. Three bids later there was silence. €24,090 became the hammer price. The fine was paid and the small surplus used to thank the Inspectateuse and the Haut Magistrat for their work.

It was over dinner that evening that the Restauratuer learned that the Haut Magistrat had himself been the proud owner of a bottle of Napolean III brandy. It had served him well for twenty years being an excellent mouthwash he said after dinner, the liquor had long since been spent, since when he had sought to acquire a Napoleon III brandy for the kitchen of the Court, but no-one was willing to sell any even if any were available. Had he been to the auction the Restauratuer enquired? It would not have been proper for the Haut Magistrat to reply, but he was able to confirm the that kitchen at the Court did now have in its inventory such a thing.

Then a second report came to light. In the East End a new restaurant had been established by two individuals in partnership to celebrate the British diet in the years 1939 to 1945. The ingredients for the meals were sourced from small farms in Lincolnshire, the Fens and north Wales. The farms agreed to ensure that only war time methods would be used for this produce, so far as was consistent with modern standards of hygiene. And the owners sent out notes as far and wide as possible to obtain recipes and other items that might be of use or for display. To their surprise they found that many had kept old tins and packets, as well as ration cards, which were falling now into the hands of the house clearance experts. This they thought could be good for his business, so they contracted to take up tinned and bottled victuals.

Then came the inspection. They had not actually used any of these items in their kitchens though should guests wish to have any they were not unwilling to sell tins of ham, spam, corned beef etc or jars of pickled onions etc to them.

No other problems arose on the inspection, but that apparently that broke all of the rules. There was out of date food on his shelves and it had to go. Unless they wished to be taken to court something must be done about it. There was also the threat that they would be closed down if they did not act.

This was unwelcome news for the proprietors, but they said they would give serious consideration to the matter and how to deal with it. The following day one of the owners rang the officers and informed them that as the partnership had been dissolved he would close the restaurant with immediate effect for two days. It would be reopened, under new ownership, on the Friday of that week, should they wish to reinspect.

On the Friday the inspectors came. All was well. The offending items had been removed. But the restaurant was slightly smaller than on their first visit. Ah yes, the owner explained. We had to partition some of the restaurant off in order to accommodate a small boutique vendor of objets d’art. The gentlemen had approached them, being a specialist in the second great war, with the idea of a curiosity shop next door to the restaurant. He thought it would be a most appropriate situation in which to be located, but had had difficulty in obtaining the premises either side, would they help?

It was then that the inspectors saw an new item on the wall, which was not out of place in most eating establishments in public places, but unusual in a place like this: Guests are reminded that only food purchased in the premises may be consumed in this restaurant. We will however make an exception for those who can prove that their victuals were processed before 1950, and in common with unlicensed restaurants we shall make a caulkage(sic!) charge for those who wish to avail themselves of this exception.

Hastening outside the inspectors did indeed find a new boutique, which sold all manner of war time memorabilia, but whose stock for the most part consisted of tins, bottles and jars. All of them were labelled: Objets d’art – not for human consumption. And behind the counter, the restauratuer’s former partner, who welcomed them and asked them to browse and perhaps purchase if they were willing.