Restaurant closures

April 24th, 2014

Since August last year, we have lost 18 restaurants in Leeds. That would not be so bad if it was the rubbish restaurants that had closed. But it never is. Quality has basically nothing to do with the success of a restaurant and marketing has everything to do with it.

Recently we have lost Curry Leaf (my favourite Indian), La Grillade (my favourite French), Cafe Italia (my favourite Italian) as well as many other great kitchens including Saengarun and Norman’s.

Meanwhile so many low quality chain restaurants continue to churn out their mush. It makes me sad.

Casting Light on Evidence

April 23rd, 2014

For the April meeting of Leeds Skeptics, Dr Paul Marchant presented a talk entitled “Casting Light on Evidence … & Evidence on Light”. The talk looked at how data is used on public policy making, to varying degrees of success.

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Sunday Assembly March

April 22nd, 2014

I hosted the March event of Sunday Assembly Leeds. The theme was Spring. We had readings from Dermot and Andrew, a talk on laughter from Hugh, Hal is trying his best and Michelle announced the first community action day.

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April 21st, 2014


I tried to capture the rainbow I could see from my balcony, to a certain degree of success.

Louis Theroux’s LA Stories

April 20th, 2014

Louis Theroux is my favourite documentary maker. When I read in the BBC Magazine that he had moved to LA and was planning on making some documentaries on his experiences there, I awaited them with much anticipation.

They were not my favourite documentaries he has ever done, but still enjoyable. The dogs one was fairly predictable. It also puts in perspective the destruction of a giraffe in Denmark. One pound in South LA is killing dogs by the dozen on a regular basis. Why are people not up in arms about that? Not to mention all the animals we eat…

End-of-life care helped explain how the United States manages to blow quite so much money on healthcare. Some of the people in there were correct – why not try everything to fight for life if you have the choice? But on a societal level, you do have to wonder whether those resources could be better spent elsewhere. It must be a tough decision for the people who make those kind of budget calls.

The most thought provoking I found was the sex offenders episode. It was pretty clear that nobody thinks these people deserve a second chance. However, if you are going to adopt that kind of attitude, why let them out of prison in the first place? Or put them to death. That is something the US still does of course.

I do not know how this compares to the UK system. I can, for example, get a list of all the sex offenders in my area from a handy site called “UK Paedos Exposed”. However, this seems to be built from user submissions, rather than state-published data. That is a pretty sick website, but not on the same level as the state-run database you can find in the US.

This is available from the UK government, but only if you are a parent or carer and want to check a specific individual. However, The Sun newspaper claim to have plotted every convicted sex offender on a map.

Meanwhile the open access in the US, as Theroux points out, leads to apps like “Offender Locator” that allow you to find them.


Fonze’s birthday

April 19th, 2014

With Fonze getting another year older earlier this month, we planned a three part celebration.

First, I made him to go flag football training. What more could you ask for on your birthday? Actually, he wanted to come, but it all worked out for everyone :D . For lunch, we went to his parents. His mum does a good Sunday lunch.

Finally, we finished up going to Chaophraya for dinner. I had wanted to go to Saengarun but unfortunately it had closed down. The advantage of Chaophraya though is that you can order the birthday cake where they come with the drums and all the staff sing happy birthday. Despite his accusatory and threatening tone, I think that was his favourite part of the day.

The Fifth Elephant

April 18th, 2014

Everyone knows that the world sits on the back of four elephants. That are themselves standing on the back of a giant turtle. The elephants themselves are also pretty big. That is just how it is. Obviously it would be nonsense to suggest there was once a fifth elephant. Yet some people actually believe that!

In the 24th novel of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, Sam Vimes travels to Überwald to take care of some sensitive negotiations. In the usual way that Sam Vimes deals with things. Obviously a recipe for success.

It was a really good novel. While I generally prefer the goings-on of Ankh-Morpork, it was nice to get out and about a little to explore some more of the Discworld. You can’t beat a good underground dwarf fortress. Well, maybe goblins can. But they are still really cool.


Duncan Dallas, 2014

April 17th, 2014


I was saddened to hear that Duncan Dallas recently passed away. Duncan was the founder of Café Scientifique, a group that he started in Leeds. It has since grown into an international movement with hundreds of groups in the UK, Europe, North America and many other regions. After stepping down from running the Leeds group he continued his work promoting open access to science in Uganda, where access to accurate information on topics such as HIV and medicine is sorely needed.

Terms of Service; Didn’t Read

April 15th, 2014

I always read a terms of service in full. Well, sometimes. Otherwise, how would you know what you were agreeing to? For example, you might be giving Apple consent to… well, lets not think about that episode of South Park because I have to eat in a few hours.

Enter Terms of Service; Didn’t Read.

These people actually have taken the time to read terms of service. Then they pick out the good and bad bits and give them a rating. This means when signing up to a service you can quickly see what you are agreeing to and whether it is reasonable or not. They even have a browser plugin.

Carpe Jugulum

April 14th, 2014

Carpe Jugulum is the twenty-third novel in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. It features The Witches (you know, the maiden, the mother, and the other one) battling vampires trying to take over Lancre.

Despite my state school education I even managed to work out that “Carpe Jugulum” meant “seize the throat”.

Good novel, even if nobody used the phrase “that’s what being a witch is all about”. I also found out that Lancre even has a royal historian. It’s Shawn Ogg.

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