Archive for the ‘Distractions’ Category

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.

Mukbang: It’s videos of people eating food

Sunday, March 18th, 2018 | Distractions

I generally think of myself as digitally savvy. I’m not quite up with the young people, on SnapChat or whatever, but I know it exists. Mukbang, however, I did not even know existed. Now I do, and it turns out that it is just videos of people eating a lot of food on a live video screen.

It’s not a food challenge thing, although they do usually eat a lot of food. It’s more of a live, interactive experience. They have a chatroom and people ask them questions. It originated in South Korea but lots of other people seemed to have jumped on the bandwagon.

Why are they doing this? One theory is that it fills a feeling of loneliness. At the end of the above video, the host says “I hope you enjoyed the food” as if we had been at a dinner party with her. Which is basically what we did:

I think I will happily go back to just the three of us, but then, I’m not really the target audience.

Spicy noodle challenge

While the concept of mukbang seems relatively mainstream, an offshoot of it has taken it to almost fetish levels: spicy noodle challenges. Video sites are floodest with mostly young women eating really spicy noodles, presumably so the viewer can watch them suffer.

Footnotes

Thanks to 지식테이너김승훈 for the title image.

NFL coverage will resume

Monday, October 2nd, 2017 | Distractions

The title card says:

Coverage will resume momentarily

Which, of course, means that coverage will return but only for a moment. Which sounds about right with the number of adverts they have in the US.

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.