Archive for March, 2013

Mixed grill

Saturday, March 23rd, 2013 | Photos


Can a restaurant that only serves chicken and lamb produced a mixed grill? Yes, apparently they can.


Friday, March 22nd, 2013 | Photos

While dining at Home Town Chinese Restaurant, we were going to order two soups, but the waiter recommended one would be enough. No wonder – I don’t think I could have finished that as a main course!


The queue

Thursday, March 21st, 2013 | Photos


Last week, someone called Aston Merrygold came to visit the office. Apparently he is a member of the band JLS and is on Got To Dance, which I understand is a TV show. I might not have been too fussed, but apparently lots of people were.

My suggestion that we should get some guest scientists in didn’t seem to be a popular suggestion.

Tong Palace

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013 | Photos


The panorama function on my phone does not produce flattering results.

Law & Order

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013 | Distractions, Thoughts

The Simpsons has entertained the world for a quarter of a century. Star Trek has become one of the biggest cultural phenomenons of the 20th century. But there is one TV franchise that has arguably eclipsed them all. That franchise, is Miami Vice creator Dick Wolf’s Law & Order.

While other glitzy shows such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation focused on solving exciting crimes and interpersonal relationships, one man had the vision to predict that what people really wanted, was a show about the paperwork, procedure and bureaucracy of the justice system.

It’s interesting then, that so many people may not have heard of Law & Order, even fewer will have watched an episode – at least in comparison to The Simpsons, which everyone ever has seen.

But the figures don’t lie. In terms of longevity, Law & Order has provided a staying power that is arguable unmatched by anything else the TV studies of the United States have ever produced.

The Simpsons has produced 24 seasons, with no spin off shows. Even if you throw in Futurama, that only takes them to 28.

Star Trek produced three original series, seven of The Next Generation, seven of Deep Space Nine, seven of Voyager and five of Enterprise, as well as one animated series – giving them a total of 30.

Meanwhile, the Law & Order franchise has produced…

  • Law & Order (20 series)
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (14 series and counting)
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent (10 series)
  • Law & Order: Trial by Jury (1 series)
  • Law & Order: LA (1 series)

That makes a total of 46 seasons, with SVU still going, and that isn’t counting Law & Order: UK which has been going since 2009, and similar versions in Paris and Moscow as well.

The Grapes of Wrath

Monday, March 18th, 2013 | Books

Having finished the very serious, adult and deep prose of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series recently, I decided it was time to read something a bit more lighthearted. John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath seemed a good choice. I had already read Of Mice and Men, which is enjoyable and I would recommend if only so people get my references, and was eager to read his works further.

It’s considered Steinbeck’s seminal work, winning the Pulitzer Prize and being cited as a key reason for Steinbeck being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962. It’s easy to see why – the powerful, touching and vivid description of people struggling through the Great Depression is one of the most moving texts I have ever read.

The book tells the family of the Joad family, who lose their farm in Oklahoma, and are forced to travel to California to find work, only to find the grass isn’t so green as they were lead to believe. Or, more accurately, that the grass is greener, but the machinery of society we have build up – the banks, the economics and the systems of government – prevent the poorest from walking on it.

Steinbeck’s vivid language paints a detailed picture of life during the Great Depression, providing a thought provoking insight to the suffering, without dwelling on it any longer than required. The monster of the system we have created is deconstructed in a way still relevant today. As the story goes on, you feel their frustration, their anger and the unfairness of their plight.

Like many for the Great Depression, the novel doesn’t have a happy ending. Or more accurately, an ending. It isn’t an unhappy one – just one without conclusion, as the family are left to continue to struggle on, without much food or money, and with winter on the way.

On a lighter note though, I have fallen in love with the name Rose of Sharon, pronounced Rosasharn. Definitely a contentor if I ever have a daughter.


First aid

Sunday, March 17th, 2013 | Thoughts

I’m trained in first aid. I have a certificate to prove it and everything. There is a good chance you do too. If you haven’t, some people at your work will do – it’s a legal requirement.

I wonder what the evidence for its efficacy though.

Think about how much you remember from your first aid course. Probably very little. Indeed, in my experience speaking to first aid reps at various companies, they say they can remember very little from their course.

Even if they do remember something, those that do usually admit that when they were actually called on to deal with an accident, they were in such a panic that even though knowledge blanked from their mind. Given what we know about psychology, that is no surprise – unless you do this every day, you’re going to struggle with the pressure.

The one thing people do tend to remember is CPR, presumably because having to kiss a dummy seems rather strange and therefore sticks in the mind. This is unfortunate as CPR isn’t a particularly useful piece of first aid because the survival rates are so low, as I’ll go into detail about.

CPR is bad. If you need to give CPR, it means someone’s heart has stopped, so they’re probably going to die. In fact, as my first aid instructor explained, all you’re doing is keeping the meat warm until the paramedics get there. You probably won’t manage it, and even if you do, they will probably die in hospital as a result anyway. Survival rates from by standers giving CPR is 5%; you have a 1 in 20 chance of making it.

That isn’t because people aren’t trained to do CPR, it’s because when someone’s heart has stopped, they’re fucked. Even if you are in a hospital at the time, and a doctor is watching you, the odds are against you, and if a doctor isn’t watching, the unfavourable odds drop to 1 in 50.

My point isn’t that first aid isn’t useful – I think it is. But I think we need to teach it in a far more effective way. A way in which people come away with more than only one piece of knowledge, that probably won’t save anyone’s life anyway.

Ideally, we would teach it in schools so that everybody knows it too. Then hopefully at least one person will be calm enough to remember what they learned.

Segregation at universities

Saturday, March 16th, 2013 | Religion & Politics


When we ran events at the University of Leeds, everyone was welcome. But, as they were our events, we insisted on white people sitting at the front, and black people sitting at the back.

That isn’t true.

But imagine if it was – how shocking! How outrageous! To be clear, given I’m known for my sarcastic nature, I am being entirely serious here – obviously it would be completely unacceptable. I genuinely do mean unacceptable – people would not accept it. The good people of Leeds would rise up against me and say “No! We’re not going to tolerate your bigoted views!”

As I said, we hold no such views. But imagine if you replaced the term “we” with “Islamic Society” and the racial segregation with a segregation based on how many X chromosomes you have – another property that, like skin colour, you have absolutely no control of. That is exactly what you get happening up and down the country.

I haven’t been to an Islamic Society run event at Leeds, so I can’t comment on their events, but I have been to Nottingham Trent where they had separate entrances for men and women, Richard Dawkins regularly tweets about segregation at UCL and last time Bob went to Bradford University he ended up making a protest about the whole thing when he refused to move after inadvertently sitting down in a row designated for women – these aren’t one-off incidents, they are happening all over the country.

Firstly, just segregation is just as bad as racial segregation – those who implement such systems are bigots. Yet the irony is that when we call these bigots on their bigoted views, they then try and say we’re racist for not respecting their bigoted religion.

Secondly though, were are the masses standing up against this kind of behaviour?

I’m proud that we have freedom of expression in this country. This means that Nick Griffin can stand up and say he doesn’t like gays – which is undesirable – but at least when he does, a million people stand up and tell him how wrong he is! That is why freedom of expression works, because everyone gets a voice and when bigots stand up and shout, we shout louder than they do.

But when one of the bigoted leaders of Islam stands up and demands segregation, where are the voices that cry out in defiance? They seem to fall silent.

Is it that all Islamists are bigots? I doubt it. None of my Islamist friends are bad people – otherwise I wouldn’t be friends with them. I think it says more about the evils of religion, than it does about the people following it.

Religion brainwashes people. There is no other word for it. It gets them to do things that typical human beings would not agree to, whether it is murdering abortion doctors, blowing yourself up, or supporting segregation whether it be racial, gender or down any other lines.

If Islamists want to convince people that their religion is one of peace and harmony, perhaps they should start by calling out their leaders on the hurtful, bigoted views they spread in university lecture halls up and down the country.

A snowy Trinity

Friday, March 15th, 2013 | Thoughts

Last Thursday, the Trinity Leeds shopping centre opened. On Friday, it snowed. This presented quite a few problems for the new shopping centre, whose website claims it is the largest in the UK, even though we know that’s not the case (as if it wasn’t obvious to anyone who was walked around Meadowhall, that in itself is only the 8th biggest).

Snow settles on the roof
The large glass roof that covers the centre over will no doubt be magical in ideal conditions, but with a lot of it being fairly flat, the snow just settles on top of it. As a consequence, it almost felt a little gloomy over the weekend because all you could see when you looked up was a thick layer of snow.

It’s very cold
The centre isn’t actually enclosed, it just has a roof over it. The result is that when it is cold, it is cold inside as well because there is nothing to keep the heat in. This would be fine, but at least one of the restaurants has most of their seating outside, which is then rendered useless by our wintery conditions.

It snows inside the centre
Another rather unfortunate consequence of not having a sealed roof is that when it snows outside, it snows inside as well. Walking though the centre on Saturday felt like just being outside as as much snow seemed to be falling inside as it was outside.

Visiting The In-Laws

Friday, March 15th, 2013 | Public Speaking, Video

Speaking of speech contests, here is my area winning speech from the humorous speaking contest last September.