Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

Masters graduation

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019 | Life

I finished my masters degree last year (with a distinction and 82% in my final project, thanks for asking :D). Because it takes the exam board a few months to award the degree, and then you have to wait for the next set of graduation ceremonies, that meant nearly a year’s wait.

Earlier this month, the day finally arrived.

Beckett is currently holding their degree ceremonies at the Leeds Arena. This is not as pretty as the Headingley campus but did mean there were enough seats for everyone. This was critical as it meant I could take Elina and not have to decide which one of my parents I loved the most.

The ceremony itself was long and dull. There were 1,000 students graduating in the same ceremony. Some in absentia, but that still a lot of people. And, because of the way they lay things out, I was almost last. Literally, I was sat next to the three PhD graduands whose presentations are reserved for the end. However, the vice-chancellor did give a good speech at the end.

After the ceremony, we headed over to the Rose Bowl where they had turned the car park into a reception area with some food and drink stalls and places to take photos.

All in all, a nice ceremony, but not a patch on Leeds University. When I graduated for my bachelors, the whole school got together and put on refreshments and all the staff were there to congratulate us. This was very different. It was all run centrally, very busy, expensive, I saw almost nobody from my course because of the size of the group and there was no school-specific stuff or any of the faculty there.

I did get a video, though, including a slow-motion relay:

4 ways to stay ethical while keeping healthy

Thursday, July 18th, 2019 | Life

Keeping fit and healthy is important for us in our daily lives, but how can we be certain we aren’t supporting unethical practices when we purchase things to help us stay healthy? One of the things you need when exercising is activewear that is designed to be light, stretchy and able to wick away the sweat.

But many of the clothes that are produced for this market use less-than-ethical practices including modern slavery in their production, and it can be extremely hard to find garments that are made from sustainable materials like organic cotton or bamboo. Similarly, buying healthy food is important, but you don’t know how that food is farmed and many food products are needlessly packaged in single-use plastic packets that aren’t recyclable and don’t biodegrade.

To address these issues, let’s look at four things you can do to stay ethical while keeping yourself healthy:

1. Buy activewear from brands that are against modern slavery

As shocking as it may seem, as many as 20.9 million people are directly affected by modern slavery every single day, so it’s important to buy from responsible brands to ensure you aren’t inadvertently supporting this. Forward-thinking brands have a far more transparent supply chain than ever before, enabling consumers to see how the garments and other items were produced and feel confident they are not giving their money to anyone engaging in modern slavery practices. Take the time to learn about brands and the garments they sell when you make purchases for your runs, swims, cycling and gym sessions.

2. Buy workout wear made from sustainable materials

There is a common misconception that only artificial materials can deliver the light, flexible, sweat-reducing properties needed from workout clothing. This is simply not true, as garments made from organic cotton, linen and bamboo can be specially designed to have the right properties for the job. It can be harder to find these types of garments since activewear made from Lycra and similar materials is cheap and easy to produce, but if you put your mind to it you will find ethical alternatives. And you’ll be glad you did since these types of clothing are typically higher quality and will last you longer as you put them through their paces working up a sweat.

3. Use your car less

This one is simple, but it is a great way to both stay healthy and be ethical. With more cars in the world than people, we are polluting the planet on an unprecedented scale through the overuse of our vehicles. So often, we use them for convenience for journeys that could easily be made another way. And if you choose to walk, run or cycle instead of using your car, you are also being healthy, so it’s a no-brainer. So don’t take the car for your next trip to the gym; try cycling or jogging there, or better yet just work-out at home – that way you’ll have a healthier bank balance, as well as a healthier body.

4. Choose healthy foods that aren’t wrapped in plastic

Our awareness of the damage that plastic does to our environment has grown significantly in recent years. If you take a trip to your local supermarket, you’ll see the astonishing prevalence of single-use plastic. In fact, items packaged in plastic are often cheaper than the ones sold loose, which seems counter-intuitive.

Instead of giving your money to supermarkets and accumulating more and more plastic in your home, start looking for alternatives that involve little or no plastic at all. Try greengrocers, reusable coffee cups and bamboo toothbrushes – the alternatives are there to be found, it just takes a concerted effort on your part to make the changes. You can eat healthily and go plastic free!

There it is – four simple things you can do to improve your ethical fitness while working on your physical fitness. Everyone should be making the effort to stop supporting unethical practices that are harming people, animals and the environment. Keeping fit is a noble pursuit, but only if you are making sure that your efforts aren’t doing harm elsewhere. Don’t be that person who closes their eyes while they contribute to global problems – make the effort, and make those changes.

100-mile bike ride

Thursday, May 30th, 2019 | Life

My training for the Yorkshireman has been a bold one: I would spend the winter and spring building power and then the late spring and early summer bringing together the endurance side of things. That meant that if the endurance wasn’t coming together, I would probably find out too late to do anything about it. That suddenly felt very scary when we arrived in May.

Luckily, it has been coming together. I completed the long route of the Tour de Yorkshire earlier this month and on bank holiday Monday I set out with the vague idea of riding somewhere between 160-180km, or shorter if I wasn’t feeling it. That isn’t a great way to structure your training but I had a 100-mile sportive booked in for the weekend after, so I wasn’t too worried about getting the distance done.

I started by meeting Cat. We went for a tour around the World Triathlon Leeds bike course and had a lovely chat. After that, I headed up towards East Keswick, not really knowing where I was going: just setting out with a map and a pocket full of dreams.

I made great process heading out towards York which always makes me suspicious: if you are going faster than you expect, it is often because you are benefiting from a tailwind you haven’t noticed. As soon as I turned back I ended up hitting the ever-present headwind which made it much harder going.

My back was giving me all kind of grief and by the time I hade it to Otley, my legs were fed up. They cried every time we got near any kind of incline. I made it as far as Golden Acre Park before refilling my bidons with coke for some sugary caffeine energy. Finally, at the bottom of Kirkstall Road, I hit the 160km mark (100 miles).

Hyde Park Harriers Triathlon AGM

Monday, May 13th, 2019 | Life

Last week, I attended the Hyde Park Harriers Triathlon club AGM. It was super dull, even for an AGM. But at least we got this nice group picture.

Vue’s My First Cinema Experience teaches children how bad going to the cinema is

Thursday, April 25th, 2019 | Life

Looking for things to do over the Easter weekend, Elina found that View Cinemas were running a film called Peppa Pig: My First Cinema Experience. This seemed a great chance to introduce Venla to the cinema, although why we would want to do that I am not sure.

We purchased some refreshments before going in. I asked for a Coke, but all they had was cherry flavour, and what I was actually sold was a Coke Zero, without being asked to consent to the substitute product. This and some sweets was about £5.

We arrived when the film was due to start. We were the only people there. Eventually, two other families turned up, and one man who looked to be in his 50s who was alone. He was just a huge aficionado of Peppa Pig, I’m sure.

I foolishly thought that given it was a “first cinema experience”, they wouldn’t make young children sit through loads of adverts. But I was wrong. There were 19 minutes of them.

It turns out that an hour of Peppa Pig is too much Peppa Pig, even for a toddler who loves Peppa Pig.

And finally home, stopping by the toilets to admire the broken hand driers.

It’s hard to understand why cinemas are losing ground to iTunes and piracy. Why would I want to watch it on my large Apple TV with my Sonos soundbar and clean bathroom, when I can spend a morning watching adverts, dodging paedophiles and paying over-the-odds for substitute drinks?

Kitty Cafe

Monday, March 25th, 2019 | Life

To celebrate Elina’s birthday earlier this month, we went to Kitty Cafe.

It’s not like a normal cafe. You need to book in advance and you pay for a one hour slot. You then buy your food and drink on top of that. We both had pizza. It was equivalent to what you can buy from the supermarket and cook at home, which is the level I was expected. But you’re not really there for the food.

There were a bunch of cats. Sometimes we had to go on a hunt for them, and Venla enjoyed running around trying to spot them. None of them came over for a stroke or a play. But who could blame them when they’ve spent an entire day with children running around after them trying to wave string in their faces.

Calf tear

Thursday, January 31st, 2019 | Life

I’ve torn my calf muscle. This is probably the worst thing that has ever happened to anyone.

It’s frustrating because I haven’t been able to train for two weeks now. I got back in the pool to try and keep my fitness up but even that is uncomfortable. I’m literally on like week 6 of my #RoadToKona and I’m already having to take at least a couple of weeks off.

Luckily, I’m under the skilled care of Dr. Venla.

Yoga Hero

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2019 | Life

After my PT described me as the “least flexible person she had ever met”, she talked me into giving yoga a go. As Yoga Hero is just across the water from the office of a client I am currently working with, I’ve been attending their beginner’s classes.

They know their audience. They have a special lunch flow class designed to avoid getting you sweaty, something I am sure colleagues will be pleased about.

They run two beginners classes a week. Monday’s class is taken by Sophie which is quite strength and stretchy. You come away feeling the burn. Friday’s class is taken by Anna. That’s a bit more focussed on the mental aspect of yoga and I find it a little more relaxing. Both are fun.

One thing I would like them to add is a double-slot class. Anna’s classes end with a relaxation session where you use a blanket, close your eyes and spend some time being mindful. I feel that would transition really nicely into an hour-long nap, and I would pay twice the money for it.

Cycling to the office

Monday, January 21st, 2019 | Life

Many of the clients I consult with are based around Leeds. And, where possible, I like to walk to their office. But sometimes it is just not practical because of time, or distance, or needing to get around multiple places.

The solution: cycling to their offices.

The timing is pretty poor. It’s cold and dark almost the whole time at the moment. But, if I can manage it now, it’s going to be far better in the summer.

New BACS scam targeting charities

Sunday, January 13th, 2019 | Life

As a charity trustee, I’m certainly no stranger to being targetted by dishonest people. Individuals regularly pay for their insurance or gym membership by setting up a Direct Debit using the charity’s bank details and companies never check; they just take the payment. It happens so much that we’ve had to disable Direct Debits on the account.

But I was, well, impressed is the wrong word, but certainly noted the attention to detail that a recent scam attempt had taken.

I received the following email:

Hi Chris and HNY,

How are you?

Can you arrange a payment today by bacs ? Let me know so i can send
you the Recipient details.

I look forward to getting a quick email respond.

Thanks!

Best regards.

Laurence Eccles and Dr Chris Hassall

I’m the current treasurer of West Yorkshire Humanists, and Laurence and Chris are the co-chairs of the group. So, this sounds like a legitimate email. But it’s from an anonymous gMail account, who had I responded, would have almost certainly asked me to pay a large amount of money to an account they control.

They have clearly targeted us individually, though, researching the name of the committee members and setting up the appropriate fake email.