Archive for August, 2017

The Book Thief

Sunday, August 6th, 2017 | Books

I confess that I have not fared well with Markus Zusak’s novel The Book Thief.

It is certainly a well-written book and interesting story. Who doesn’t love death as a narrator? However, it has not captivated me. Half way through I found that my reading simply stagnated and I did not get any further.

I’m just not that excited to find out how it ends. And, well, I kind of know that already, because it’s included in the story. No doubt there were some exciting twists to come. But I shall never know.

Fearnville Leisure Centre review

Saturday, August 5th, 2017 | Reviews, Sport

Fresh from our trip to Kirkstall leisure centre, we decided to hit Fearnville this week.

It is also operated by Leeds City Council and as such as much the same facilities and pricing. It’s £4.90 for an adult and under 5s go free. There is a 25-metre pool at the same depth of 0.8 metres to 1.6 metres, making it almost deep enough for an adult in the deep end.

Their children’s pool was open and it was nice and warm. Venla enjoyed having a good splash.

The changing room setup is a little different. They split into men and women but then merge back together for family changing: with big cubicles, changing tables and lockers. This worked really well because we could double-team Venla.

The showers were back in the separate gender changing areas and there was still no plug socket for my hair dryer. The lockers required £1 and the keys were less fancy: it was literally a rubber band with a key attached to it.

Tour de France

Friday, August 4th, 2017 | Sport

I have never watched cycling before. For the obvious reason: that men peddling away on bikes for five hours does not sound that interesting.

However, when you are working with Sky Sports, you sometimes get caught up in the excitement. It happened with golf, and now it appears to have happened with cycling, too.

Plus, I have stopped watching Formula One since Sky announced they were getting almost-exclusive live coverage of it. So, I am in the market for a new boring sport to watch. Cycling seems an excellent candidate.

Not as boring as it looks

A cycle race may seem like a bunch of people riding around for hours before sprinting towards the finish line at the very end. And, to a large extent, it is that. It is much easier to ride together in a peloton, so that is what happens, especially on the flat stages.

But it becomes more complicated than that. Riders can “attack”, which means they cycle off up the road and the peloton has to decide between chasing them down or letting them go. Cycling by yourself or in a small group is tiring, so it then becomes a competition to see if they can build up a big enough lead to hold off the peloton when they speed up towards the end.

Tour de France has four different jerseys:

Jersey Description
Yellow jersey This is the most prestigious one: and the one Wiggins and Froome raced for and won. It is a sumation of your time for each stage: the one with the lowest is the winner. You also get time bonuses for winning stages.
Green jersey The points jersey. You get points for winning stages, intermediate sprints (designated points along the route) and reaching the top of hills first.
Polka dot jersey King of the Mountains. This is given to the rider who scores the most points from reaching the tops of hills first.
White jersey Best young rider, similar to general classification but with an age limit.

So, lots going on. And because different riders are aiming for different jerseys, tactics change a lot. It’s a team sport. If you want to win a sprint, for example, it is easiest if you have a line of team-mates to get you in the perfect position.

Or, if you are competing for the yellow jersey, it makes sense have some of your team mates attack. That way, the yellow jersey is forced to either chase them down, tiring himself out so you can pass him at the end, or leave the attackers to the stage, taking valuable time out of his lead.

Grand Depart in Leeds

There are four big races in cycling, known as the grand tours. These are the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, Vuelta a España and Tour de Yorkshire. Some people dispute whether the latter is really a grand tour.

But Yorkshire is certainly a hub for cycling. In 2014, the Tour de France started here, with the Grand Depart starting on The Headrow in Leeds. I was there.

This year’s tour

Chris Froome took the win in relatively easy fashion. While his winning time was narrower than his previous victories, and he briefly lost the yellow jersey at one point, it never really looked in that much danger given how dominant Team Sky was.

The real outrage of the tour was that Warren Barguil was awarded the combativity prize. He rode an excellent race and won the King of the Mountains jersey fair and square. But how anyone other than Thomas De Gendt, who spend over 1,000km in breakaway groups (mostly leading them), could be awarded the combativity jersey is a mystery to a novice cycling-watcher such as myself.

Image courtesy of Wiki Commons.

According to Greta: A review

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017 | Distractions

Even the knowledge that this was a Hilary Duff film was insufficient to set my expectations low enough.

This supposed exploration of the mind of a troubled young girl is dull, predictable and uninsightful. I did not even make it to the end. It’s only one redeeming feature is that some bits of it are so embarrassing that it may be an incredibly clever parody that only the writer was in on.

Kirkstall Leisure Centre review

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017 | Reviews

In Finland, things are simple: you throw your baby in a lake and either they swim, or they sink. Elina has become soft while over here though and wanted to give Venla a gentler introduction to swimming.

Our first trip was to Kirkstall Leisure Centre. Here is what I thought of it.

They have a 25-metre pool and learner pool. Unfortunately, when we turned up, the learner pool was closed. We did get a discount because of it, though.

The 25-metre pool is almost a learner pool in itself. It starts at 0.8 metres deep and only goes up to 1.6 metres deep, meaning both Elina and I could stand in the so-called deep end.

The water was warmer than I expected. We went at 10 am on Sunday morning, and it was quite busy.

They had a section of the pool roped off for lane swimming, and it was a generously wide lane, meaning that you could go around without kicking people coming the other way. It did mean you would get stuck behind slower traffic, though.

The changing rooms were okay. They were clean, and the showers were a reasonable temperature. No complimentary shower gel, but then I was not expecting any at a public pool. The lack of power sockets was a real problem, though: there was nowhere to plug my hair dryer in.

The locker keys were good: a solid rubber strap with a key that folds in. Difficult to operate with one hand, though.

Anxiety Leeds impact report

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017 | Foundation

Today, we’re launching the first Anxiety Leeds impact report.

We regularly take feedback from our group members and survey them to see what is working and what is not. However, this is the first time we have systematically reviewed the results and published a report about it.

Here are the headline figures:

  • We support a wide range of ages across both genders
  • We support a broad range of anxiety conditions, often compounded by depression and physical health issues
  • 71% feel less alone after attending our meetings
  • 29% feel a lot more positive about life
  • 40% even see a reduction in day-to-day anxiety, despite us not being a treatment group

This is set on a background of us working with people who have anxiety, and therefore have a negative outlook on the world, compounded by also suffering from depression, which is the case of 62% of our members.

Here is the headline graph:

It is clear that not everyone sees a benefit in attending our group. This is consistent with other mental health programmes, all of which typically experience high drop-out rates.

The majority of people who do attend do see a benefit. This benefit increases the more they attend. This result should be viewed with caution: although it is highly plausible that there is a causative effect here, it is not direct evidence of one.

We’re also delivering an internal plan to group members on how we can continue to improve the group as we go forward.

You can download the full report here.