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I'm often spoilt for choice when I sit down to write about the current edition of Education and Practice. There are so many interesting articles, I'm not sure which area I'd most like to discuss further in this introduction. I could write about developmental examination (see page 162), antipsychotics (see page 192) or Takayasu arteritis (see page 176). There's an article on invasive pneumococcal disease (see page 183), and a few thought-provoking Pickets (see pages 198–200) – the section where we write a structured abstract of a seminal article and then commission a commentary to put this article into context. And finally, there's an article that includes choices itself – a great Dermatophile article (see page 191), complete with multiple choice questions, which should make you feel itchy.
Choice itself is fascinating, and just before writing this I happened across – well, actually, Simon Singh mentioned on twitter – a really mind-altering talk from TED. If you've not come across TED, it stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design and can be found at http://www.ted.com. It's a not-for-profit foundation that gets clever people into a lecture theatre – at various locations around the world – and lets them talk, usually for about 20 min at most, and usually about their specialist area. These talks are recorded – high-quality video – and put on the website for you to browse. The results are astonishing. You could think of it as being like YouTube, but without the 99.9% rubbish. I can promise you that if you find yourself in the unusual position of having 20 min to spare – and of course, you've already read E&P from cover to cover, then pick a talk at random, and you will undoubtedly learn something new, surprising and which lends you a new perspective on the world. Beware, however, that it can be pretty addictive; the thought ‘Just another 20 min’ is insidious. The talk I was directed to was by Sheena Iyengar, an engaging speaker – even by TED standards – who described some of the research she'd done into the science of making choices – why we make the choices we do, and what the impact of our background and culture are on these choices. As Simon Singh pointed out in his tweet, there are at least a couple of staggering conclusions in this talk, and I suspect I will still be reflecting on this for months to come as I talk with families and colleagues when it comes to them – and us – sharing the task of making choices. You can find the talk here: http://bit.ly/SIchoice.
So, how to choose what to write about, where to direct you in the journal… I think I'm going to steer a middle path with this month's editor's choice: Invasive Pneumococcal Illness (see page 183). My reasoning? Well, pneumococcal illness still terrifies me – even though I'm fortunate to live in a country where the incidence has fallen since the introduction of a vaccine. I'd say that of all the things that you might whisper into a sleeping paediatrician's ear to induce bad dreams, ‘pneumococcus’ would have to be one of the worst. I suspect we've all got our own horror story about the harm done by this nasty little bacterium. This article is a timely refresher of the spectrum of illnesses caused, and is helpful reminder – as if we needed it – that although the development of a vaccine has reaped tremendous rewards, there is still a burden of disease that we have to remain vigilant for.
Sheena Iyengar makes the point that we're experts in making choices – and implies that we're so expert that sometimes we don't even notice the cultural biases we build into the choices we offer others. I'm hoping that if you've chosen to read this far, and are choosing to read this journal, you'll continue to send me your comments and suggestions to the email address below. Meanwhile, I'm off to meditate on the issues of choice, although there's a good chance that this could be mistaken for falling asleep while reading the newspaper, itself, I reckon, a pretty good choice too…