Archive for the ‘Distractions’ Category

Team Sky unveil 2019 bus design

Wednesday, December 26th, 2018 | Distractions

Pro cycling outfit Team Sky have unveiled their design for the 2019 team buses. 2019 will be the last year the time exists in its current form, with Sky announcing that it will end its sponsorship deal with the team after the 2019 season.

Sky as recently acquired by US media giant Comcast, after a bitting war with 21st Century Fox, who owned 40% of Sky’s shares prior to the takeover. Sky’s takeover was, ironically, partly made possible by the collapse of the pound after the Brexit vote.

People who aren’t real doctors

Thursday, November 1st, 2018 | Distractions

Dr Dre

He may be an awesome wrapper, but he doesn’t have a PhD in music. Or in anything.

Dr Evil

There is no such place as evil medical school. It’s just made up.

Dr Pepper

The drink was created by pharmacist Charles Alderton and named by Wade Morrison. Neither of them are doctors.

The Doctor

Sure, he’s a Time Lord with more knowledge of human physiology than probably any human alive. But he’s not registered with the General Medical Council and therefore it doesn’t exist.

Gillian McKeith

Gillian McKeith used to tell people she was a doctor, and use it in advertising until the Advertising Standards Authority told her not to. That’s because the qualification she had could be bought on the internet. Ben Goldacre bought one for his cat.

Dr Fox

More musicians (or in this case DJs) pretending to be doctors. He studied management at the University of Bath and has no higher qualifications.

Dr Seuss

Of all the pretenders, Dr Seuss may well have the best case. He did go to Oxford University to pursue a PhD in English literature. However, he never completed it.

Ironman World Championship 2018

Sunday, October 21st, 2018 | Distractions, Sport

A full distance triathlon consists of a 3.8km swim, 180km bike and marathon run to finish the race. Ironman is the most famous of the full distance brands, and every year people compete in Ironman races around the world to earn a qualifying spot at the original race in Kona, Hawaii.

I watched it for the first time last year. Patrick Lange took his first victory and set a new course record of 8:01:40 after Cameron Wurf set a new record on the bike course. Meanwhile, in the women’s race, Brit Lucy Charles led for the swim and most of the bike until Daniela Ryf came storming through to take the lead and run her way to a third victory in a row.

This year they were celebrating the 40th anniversary of Ironman and they did so in style: the weather was absolutely perfect. Or, at least, as perfect as you can get on a lava field on a tropical island.

Josh Amburger led out a fairly easy swim for the elite men, coming home in 47:39. You might think that was the fastest swim of the day. But no. Age group athlete Jan Sibbersen smashed the age-group record with a swim of 46:29 while Lucy Charles went on a solo charge and broke the elite women’s record with a time of 48:14.

Things didn’t slow down on the bike. Cameron Wurf, who set a new course record last year with 4:12:54, brought it home in 4:09:06, breaking his own record by nearly four minutes.

Lucy Charles ploughed on on the bike. However, Danielle Ryf was simply unstoppable. After an awful swim due to being stung by a jellyfish and almost pulling out of the race, she finished the bike course in 4:26:07, smashing the women’s record, taking nearly 30 minutes off her time from last year (4:53:10).

Once onto the run, defending champion Patrick Lange finished the marathon in 2:39:58, becoming the first person ever to go sub-eight hours in Kona with a total time of 7:52:39, beating his own course record from last year by nine minutes. Second place Bart Aernouts also finished under eight hours while Britain’s David Mcnamee took the third podium stop for the second year in a row. Other notable finishers included Joe Skipper in 7th (Ironman UK winner) and Tim Don making his return to Kona.

On the women’s side, Daniella Ryf smashed the course record with a time of 8:26:18, giving her her fourth world championship in a row. Lucy Charles made it two for two on the second spot of the podium with Germany’s Anne Haug in third after running the fastest marathon time in the elite women (2:55:20). Four female athletes went under three hours in the marathon and ten went under nine hours.

And to finish it all, Patrick Lange celebrated by proposing to his girlfriend on the finish line. She accepted. He said something about “if I set a course record”, so lucky for her that it was a fast day, I guess!

Can we have Jim Harbaugh back yet?

Friday, October 19th, 2018 | Distractions, Sport

In 2013 the San Franciso 49ers went to the Super Bowl. Despite going down in the first half, they staged one of the greatest comebacks in Super Bowl history before heartbreakingly failing to convert on a 1st and goal from the seven-yard line and lost the game 34-31.

In 2014, head coach Jim Harbaugh was hired by Jed York because they couldn’t get on. We knew at the time that it was a massive mistake, and now we have the numbers to prove it.

Here is a graph showing the 49ers win percentage. I’ve also included the win percentage of the Michigan Wolverines, who Harbaugh went on to coach after leaving the 49ers.

You’ll notice that we’re not doing very well until 2011 when we hire Jim Harbaugh. Things turn around instantly and for the next four years we not only make the playoffs but make it all the way to the championship game (and once, the Super Bowl). In 2014, we go 8-8. Not great, but not a losing record either.

Harbaugh is fired and we go through three head coaches in three years: Jim Tomsula, Chip Kelly and Kyle Shanahan. All of which are losing seasons, and we’re losing this one, too.

Meanwhile, Michigan, who, to be fair, was never a bad team, go from inconsistent results to having a winning season every year under Harbaugh.

In fact, the 49ers have never had a losing season under Jim Harbaugh. Neither have Michigan. Can we have him back yet?

Why can’t Coca-Cola avoid the sugar tax?

Monday, August 27th, 2018 | Distractions

Soft drink brands across the board have been reducing the amount of sugar in their drinks in order to avoid the sugar tax. But one brand remains unchanged. To understand why we need to do a short history lesson.

Earlier this year the UK introduced a new tax on sugary drinks. Any drink with more than 5g of added sugar per 100ml is now subject to a levy. Hence why the prices of many soft drinks have gone up, including having to pay more than the set-meal price at McDonald’s and meal-deal sandwich outlets.

To prepare for this, many companies have reduced the sugar content in their drinks to avoid the tax. Fanta, Ribena, Iron Bru and Lucozade have all made changes to this effect. But one brand hasn’t changed: Coca-Cola Classic.

Why is this? Is it because the Coca-Cola Company doesn’t want to? Certainly not. Fanta is a Coca-Cola Company brand and they have changed the recipe for that. But Original Coke remains unchanged because simply put, they can’t change it.

The Pepsi Challenge

The story starts in 1975. Coca-Cola is the leading carbonated soft drink in the world. But a competitor, PepsiCo, is about to strike gold with a marketing campaign.

They presented consumers with two white cups filled with cola. One had Pepsi in and one had Coca-Cola in. Each person drank both cups and selected the one they preferred. It was a blind taste test. And, as it turned out, when you don’t know what you are drinking, most people prefer Pepsi.

PepsiCo realised they were onto a winner and began to shout to the high heavens about it. They ran TV commercials showing it happening. And their sales went through the roof. Within five years, they were within striking distance of becoming the number one soft drink.

Coca-Cola responds

The Coca-Cola Company’s own tests confirmed what the Pepsi Challenge suggested: that people preferred the taste of Pepsi. So, they began working on a new version of Coke that would cater to people’s tastes.

In April 1985, New Coke was launched.

This wasn’t some small viral campaign they hoped would later catch on. Coca-Cola went big. They stopped making their original formula entirely. They poured money into advertising: so much money that by the end of the campaign, more Americans knew about New Coke than knew who the US President was.

Backlash

Despite some initial success, many of Coca-Cola’s customers rebelled.

They didn’t just stop buying it. They sent letters. And made phone calls. And founded campaigning organisations like the Old Cola Drinkers of America. They tracked down companies that had stockpiles of original Coke and started making long-distance road trips to get their hands on some. They even filed a lawsuit against the company in an attempt to get them to change it back.

Eventually, Coca-Cola was forced to cave in. 78 days after launching New Coke, they announced that the original formula was going back into production under the name of Coca-Cola Classic. Sales skyrocketed while New Coke was re-named to Coke II and the finally killed off altogether.

It remains one of the most eminent cautionary tales in marketing.

And that’s why they can’t change it

The Coca-Cola Company will not change the sugar content of their Classic drink because they can’t risk it. After one of the biggest disasters in marketing history, it’s just too risky for them to alter it. So risky that they would rather risk losing market share because of a sugar levy that only hits their drink and not that of the competition than they would risk tweaking the formula and possibly another backlash.

A psychologist watches Love Island

Thursday, August 2nd, 2018 | Distractions

A few weeks ago we did a writing retreat for everyone on the masters programme in the School of Psychology. During one of the breaks, everyone was talking about Love Island. Somehow, they convinced me it was a subject worth study.

This isn’t unusual. Take Benefits Street, for example. That has all kind of implications, stereotypes and editing choices that provide a deep, rich dataset for social psychologists looking to elucidate and explain the way our society works (or does not work).

So, with Venla safely tucked up into bed, I headed over to ITV’s On Demand service and watched some.

I made it as far as the first “re-coupling” before I had to give up.

What is it?

If you haven’t seen it, here is a quick overview. The show’s producers have rented a giant villa. They then fill it with single people who they hope will have sex on television.

But it’s more than that. It’s a game show. They start by introducing five men and five women and couple them up. They then introduce a sixth man who has to “steal” one of the girls, and they become a couple. Each couple shares a double bed in the communal bedroom, and the person who is left over has to sleep by themselves.

They then introduce more sets of men and women in such a way that there is always a slight imbalance. At certain points, there is a “re-coupling” in which one gender has to select who to couple up with from the other gender, and the person who is left out is sent home.

At the end of the show, the public vote for the couple they like the most, who are given £50,000.

Why is it terrible?

At best, it is uninteresting. It is a bunch of shallow people doing nothing with their time but gossiping, moaning about relationships. drinking and playing ridiculous games.

At worst, it is far more ominous. They’re not shy about the tasteless nature of the show. In one of the organised games, for examples, the girls had to try and crush a watermelon with their bottom by bouncing up and down on it.

Yeah, it was a real thing that really happened:

Worse, though, are the ethical implications of the show.

If I went to the university ethics committee and said I wanted to make people pick who to couple up with, leaving one person purposely excluded, and then continued to strategically introduce other people to break up the existing relationships and make people cry on camera, I would quite rightly be burnt at the stake.

And at least I would be doing it in the name of science.

Because who would possibly subject their fellow human beings to that for the purposes of entertainment? It has been running for six series so it’s not like they can possibly be surprised when the poor people break down in tears.

Brompton announce first TT bike

Friday, July 6th, 2018 | Distractions

Brompton, the company famous for making folding bikes that you can take on the train with you, have this week announced they are releasing their first TT (time trial) bike with integrated folding aero bars.

“Now that TransPeninne Express have banned bikes, the demand for our foldable options has never been higher,” explained Managing Director Andrew Spin. “But what happens when you have a national time trial championship, and the only way to get there is by train? We think this bike is the answer.”

The new bike could also help commuters running late, allowing them to sacrifice the safety of themselves and pedestrians in order to shave a few seconds off the cycle leg of their journey.

NHS overwhelmed as millions hallucinate England winning a penalty shootout

Wednesday, July 4th, 2018 | Distractions

NHS mental services have admitted they are “overwhelmed” after millions of people sought voluntary admission to psychiatric hospitals, claiming they vividly experienced England winning a penalty shootout.

“It was so real,” explained Michelle Herbert. “I felt like I was actually happening. Obviously, it didn’t happen, because it’s England, so it seems like I am no longer able to tell the difference between imagination and reality.”

“Our services are already stretched beyond capacity,” an official for NHS primary care mental health. “Thankfully, we’ve received expert assistance from the Swedish medical authorities, who assured us that the episode would pass by the end of Saturday.”

Health secretary, Jeremy Cunt, released a statement confirming that the lack of capacity to deal with the current crisis had everything to do with the unpredictable nature of healthcare and nothing to do with him having cut 15,000 in-patient beds across England & Wales since 2012.

Introducing Lucozale

Saturday, June 30th, 2018 | Distractions

Lucozale is the world’s first isotonic pale ale. When you feel you need the bitter taste of a good ale to remind you why you’re here, and to numb the pain in your muscles, Lucozale is the sport drink to reach for.

Orange Is the New Black

Thursday, June 14th, 2018 | Distractions

Occasionally, the number and quality of recommendations for a TV show reach a threshold and I temporarily expand my TV watching to include something other than shows about people baking in tents. Orange Is the New Black recently achieved this.

It has Captain Janeway in for a start. This wasn’t quite true. It has the actor, Kate Mulgrew. So, the character Captain Janeway isn’t in it which was a little disappointing. Luckily, Mulgrew is a wonderful actor outside of Star Trek, too, so it still worked.

If you’re not familiar with the show, it tells the story of a well-off white woman who gets busted for a ten-year-old drug offence and gets sentenced to 15 months in a minimum security prison. Like anyone who finds themselves in the slammer, she is out of her depth.

It has won critical acclaim for dealing with many of the issues of the prison system including budget cuts, corruption, privatisation and inmate abuse. The characters look real. This isn’t a bunch of women walking around a prison with perfect makeup. My guess is that the “no makeup” look is a form of makeup behind the scenes, but it is done very effectively.

I’ve found the later episodes a little less gripping, probably because of my own extensive white privilege. At first, you’re following Piper as she plays out the “rich white girl in an alien world” struggle, learning to deal with her situation and trying to hold her relationship together.

As the show goes on, the focus moves to other characters. But I can’t identify with growing up in a house where drug use is normal, or in foster care, or with gang violence. It’s elucidating as to how many prisoners are victims of circumstance and upbringing but then, as a leftie, I already believed that.

It will be interesting to see where they take the show next. It returns with a new series later this month.