Archive for July, 2010

The suburbs

Monday, July 26th, 2010 | Friends, Life

I finally got to see Gijsbert’s new house yesterday. It’s very nice indeed! Located in Adel, the street could easily be confused for a JCT600 showroom with lines of Mercedes, BMWs and and Audis. Detached and everything.

It was quite a nice garden at the back too – you could even describe it as being very appropriate for humanist summer BBQs similar to those held by the North Yorkshire Humanist Group which I attended last summer.

Just like old times

Monday, July 26th, 2010 | Friends, Life

Michelle dropped by last week in between her many travels.

We went to Blackhouse, the steak house in the city centre now located where Est Est Est used to be which I really, really recommend! I’m not convinced it was better than River Plate but certainly matches it and River Plate was amazing in itself. Cannot recommend it enough.

Afterwards we headed up to The Hedley Verity which is the new Lloyds No. 1 bar (essentially, a Wetherspoon’s with disco lights). That is located where Baja Beach Club used to be. I can’t say I spent much time in Baja because I didn’t start really going out and getting drunk until I was 18 and was therefore already three years too old to be hanging out in Baja.

What struck me though was how easily we all quickly slipped back into old times, arguing over socialist vs conversative politics and getting drunk. Good times.


Sunday, July 18th, 2010 | Distractions, Thoughts

I was thinking about the selective attention videos Jonni was showing me earlier and that lead me on to thinking about some videos I saw many years ago that made me jump.

Such videos to something along similar lines of this: they present to you two identical pictures and ask you to “spot the difference.” Of course there isn’t any and as time goes on your eyes move closer and a closer to the screen as your concentration increases to try and spot the differences you are told are there to be spotted.

Suddenly a ghostly image appears and a scream comes hurtling through your speakers and the majority of people will jump. There is a crude example of such a video here.

This got me thinking, it’s actually quite easy to scare someone. How many times have you walked up behind someone concentrating on a computer screen for them to suddenly realise you are there, jump and claim you “scared the life out of them.” Probably many times.

And yet, horror films continually fail to scare us on a regular basis. When was the last time you watched a horror film that was actually scary? I found Silent Hill had a good attempt but that was a few years ago now and most people found that rather tame. Of course it varies from person to person but most people I talk to, at least among my male friends, claim they haven’t seen a scary movie in a long time. Of course they could just be embarrassed to admit they were scared but for the moment lets take them at their word and assume all recent horror films haven’t scared them.

Surely we must be able to put some science behind this?

Take roller coasters for example. There is a lot of research and engineering that goes into making roller coasters and exhilarating experience. The problem is now that they simply can’t make them go any faster, drop any steeper or throw people around any more than they already do without injuring people.

So, as a friend was explaining to me, they’re now working on techniques to make people feel disoriented. The current avenue of research is to attempt to recreate the feeling we all had when we were children and went rolling down hills (I say children, I would imagine in Michelle’s case, it was last week as I presume it still works 😉 ) and that sensation of tumbling over and over. They can do this already but not without people throwing up everywhere, so the research continues.

I would have thought, in the same way, we could apply new techniques to horror movies rather than just adding even more blood, gore and guts to each film. Maybe they already are of course, but I think so far, the general consensus is that it isn’t working.

End of Year Ball 2010

Monday, July 12th, 2010 | Events, Humanism

Browns played host to this year’s End of Year Ball in Leeds, with them providing us with no less than two private rooms – one for the reception and one for the dinner. As a bonus my fish came as an entire fish too.

Football gets everywhere

Monday, July 12th, 2010 | Events, Humanism, Thoughts

The World Cup manages to get everywhere – and arguably so it should – though it was surprising to find that it even made it as far as the Humanist Community of Leeds with Gijsbert dressing up in all orange to support his home country, The Netherlands.

Mr Foley’s

Monday, July 12th, 2010 | Events, Humanism

The June Skeptics in the Pub meeting was held at Mr Foley’s on The Headrow. It’s interesting that when you describe it as “opposite the art gallery” nobody really knows where you mean but as soon as you say “next door to Wildcats” everyone knows exactly where it is!

For the innocent of you, Wildcats is one of Leeds’ many strip joints.

June’s talk was by Stewart Richmond who is the man that proved magnetic bracelets are of course a load of nonsense. Good times.

Secular Portal Resource Library launches

Thursday, July 8th, 2010 | Foundation

We’re pleased to announce the launch of our latest web resource, the Secular Portal Resource Library! This is exactly what it says on the tin – a library of resources for secular groups. It houses a huge variety of talks, slides, presentations, letters, forms, document templates and much more all available for secular groups to make use of.

Many groups develop some fantastic resources which would be of great value to other groups and we’re hoping this will provide a great way for groups to exchange material and save time and energy on not having to start from scratch every time they want to put together a top quality presentation, leaflet or document.

There are already several hundred documents in the system with more on there way so do browse around and see if you can find anything which may be of use to you. If you would like to contribute any documents for other groups too, please email them over to us!


Tuesday, July 6th, 2010 | Books

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything is a book co-written by Steve Levitt and Stephen Dubner. It explores quirks of society and challenge some commonly held ideas about how the world works, providing better explanations.

For example, why do drug dealers most drug dealers live with their mothers? The answer is that they are earning less than they could make at McDonald’s. Drug dealing is a pyramid scheme at the people at the bottom are on less than minimum wage.

The most controversial chapter of the book looks at falling crime rates in New York. This is the shining example of broken window theory, as Malcolm Gladwell discusses in The Tipping Point. Dubner and Levitt show this is nonsense. Other cities in America that did not implement zero-tolerance also experienced this drop in crime. What fits the actual data far better is that it was a result of legalising abortion, which leads to would-be-criminals simply never being born.


Engage launches

Sunday, July 4th, 2010 | Foundation

We’re pleased to announce the launch of the foundation’s newsletter, Engage. This will be a quarterly newsletter containing all the latest news, events and projects that the foundation is working on. The first issue looks at Enquiry 2010, Atheist, Sunrise and several other initiatives. You can read the online version here.