Archive for May, 2014

Premier Sports review

Saturday, May 31st, 2014 | Reviews

Premier Sports is a television channel that nobody has ever heard of. It’s an add-on to Sky Sports, for an additional monthly fee. Which is really annoying because they have had, for the past two years, exclusive coverage of the Ice Hockey World Championship finals.

Luckily they have now added Premier Player, an online streaming version of the channel. It costs £9.99 per month. Sign up was painless and we were able to watch it straight away. You can use as many devices as you want, but you can only log in with one device at a time, so you need to make sure you actually sign out if you want to switch devices.

Quality was not great. There are only so much you can expect when you stream a web feed onto a 42″ TV. However, I get good results with Sky Go and iPlayer. The results from Premier Sports were noticeably not as good, especially with the graphics and semi-transparent overlays. However it did offer a continuous stream whereas the free HD stream of a Finland channel we found kept cutting out every 3-5 seconds.

Overall, I am fairly satisfied. It would be great to get a higher quality feed. In a decade or so I imagine we will look back and consider how crazy it was that we watched anything in this resolution. But it was watchable and the whole process was pain free.

Professor Liane Benning at Leeds Skeptics

Friday, May 30th, 2014 | Foundation, Humanism

Earlier this month Professor Liane Benning presented a talk on life in extreme environments at Leeds Skeptics.

This collided with two unfortunate events. Firstly, due to the rare day of hot sunny weather, turn out was down. Second, due to time commitments I had not brought the video camera to record the talk as it takes a long time to process, edit and publish it. These were both big mistakes as Professor Benning presented one of the most interesting talks we have had.

It turns out that she has spent much of the last decade going to Svalbard and testing Mars rovers for NASA and ESA. Officially she is a biogeochemist and moved effortlessly between different scientific disciplines. By the end of the talk I was sitting there feeling like I had wasted my life while Gabrielė was trying to sign up to go on the next expedition.

I know Headingley Cafe Scientifique were trying to poach her to speak at their group too. if they do book her and you have not seen the talk, I highly recommend attending!

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Eurovision 2014

Thursday, May 29th, 2014 | Distractions, Video


I found this year’s Eurovision very odd. There was not a huge mix of ridiculous, funny novelty acts. There were just a lot of genuinely enjoyable songs. I am not sure I approve of that.

The winner was of course Conchita Wurst. Her victory was heralded as a great victory for the acceptance of trans in our society. I am a little less convinced. The fact that Wurst could win Eurovision does not tell us that much. Yes, it means she got lots of votes from countries you might not think were that gay-friendly. But it was Eurovision. The campest thing on television. It’s the only thing that did not get more camp by adding Graham Norton. I’m very happy she won, but this is not the end of apartheid.

We finally got the message this year and realised we were going to do a lot better if we had a Swedish person write our song instead. It still did not work that well.

Finland did okay this year. They face the same problem every year though – how do you follow the legend that is Lordi?

I really enjoyed Iceland’s song. Good song; good message.

Being a twenty-first century man I would never be petty enough to revel in French defeats. For a start, who has that much time to commit? But if you are going to take your one black performer and daub him in war paint while your lead singer is wearing a shirt and tie, you probably deserve to come dead last.

No surprise that Ukraine actually gave Russia plenty of points. Even if half the country is rather annoyed at Russia at the moment, they do have a large ethnic Russian population.

I have no idea how The Netherlands got so many votes. It was a good song, but it wasn’t a Eurovision song (we don’t want your deep and meaningful music about here!).

Well done to Hungary too. Not everyone could score so many points by singing about child abuse.

I was quite proud of us when we didn’t give Poland all our points. It was a shit song. We hadn’t voted for Poland just because they got their tits out. But then it turned out the public had.

Of course now is the most depressing time of year, because it is the furthest away you can be from the next Eurovision song contest. But we will struggle on, somehow…

A Very British Election

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014 | Religion & Politics

“Hello, welcome to the polling station. Are you voting fraudulently?” “No” “Okay, wonderful. Go right ahead then”.

Sounds ridiculous of course. However, in the UK, that is pretty much what we do. Without bothering to ask the question explicitly. In some parts of the country they were apparently turning EU citizens away saying they had not completed a UC1 form whatever that is.

That certainly was not the case in Leeds. The two non-British EU citizens I spoke to said they had the same experience. No one asked to see their polling card. No one asked to see their ID. They didn’t even need to know their own name.

When Elina went down to the polling station she was armed with her polling card and password. However, she didn’t need either. They just asked for her address. She could have given any. After she did that, they read out her name and asked if that was her. She said it was, and was given a ballot paper.

I’ve never tried electoral fraud, so I am not an expert in it. However, I can see a few ways in which this system would be undermined. For example, I could have given my neighbours address. Very easy when you live in sequentially numbered flats. Even if they had then asked me to confirm my name, I could have just read it upside down while they were looking for the address and given it back to them. And all of that is only based on a scenario where I don’t know the name of my neighbour.

Luckily, because everyone in Britain is totally honest, this isn’t a problem.

The Big Short

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014 | Books

The Big Short is a book by Michael Lewis that tells the story of the 2008 financial crises and some of the people who saw it coming. Lewis is a great writer. He takes a subject which is fundamentally rather dull and boring, and tells stories in such an accessible and engaging way that it is difficult to put it down.

It preaches a similar story to that of his later book, Flash Boys. That is that almost nobody in the banking industry really knows what is going on. They churn out new products and new systems so fast that none of them really understand it. Their, and our doom. But at least it makes good reading.

The Big Short

Getting serious about anxiety

Monday, May 26th, 2014 | Foundation, Thoughts

I was recently passed an article by The Priory Group entitled “Anxiety – are you taking it serious?

It talks about how common anxiety is and how people do not take it seriously. It then shows twenty photos of people holding up signs with messages such as “don’t be such a drama queen” and “it must be horrible being you!”.

Powerful stuff. But is it accurate? Because if it isn’t, we could be unnecessarily worrying people from being open about their issues.

It is easy to pick out a couple of anecdotes that reflect badly on a certain situation. Doing so proves nothing more than that you are entirely qualified to become a journalist for the Huffington Post. However, if you want to make an important point, I think you need to back it up with some actual statistics. How many people were surveyed? What percentage of people report a negative experience?

The reason I ask is that I do not believe the percentage would be high. I have usually found the experience of being open about anxiety a positive one. So have many people. Indeed an overwhelming majority of people who attend Anxiety Leeds have. Of course I am working of anecdotal evidence as well, but the least we can say is that do not know either way whether most people have a positive or negative experience.

How about the control group?

Further, I would argue that you need to factor in a control group.

Yes, some people might make negative comments about anxiety. However, people make negative comments about a variety of conditions. Have you tried having flu as a man? Nobody has any sympathy for you. “Oh, man flu again, poor you.” It’s horrible. I have never experienced anything like that regarding anxiety.

Okay, but why is it important?

Selecting anecdotes without publishing evidence to back it up is harmful because you cannot substantiate the claims you making. Which means they might not be true. But people might believe them anyway.

This is primarily harmful to people suffering from anxiety. Mental health is the new gay and we need people to come out about it. Publishing articles that suggest that anyone who does will be subject to ridicule and abuse will only encourage people to keep their problems suppressed.

This is bad for them and bad for society. If we want to encourage people to be open about mental health difficulties they are facing, we need to reassure them coming out is a good move.

His Last Bow

Sunday, May 25th, 2014 | Books

His Last Bow is another of the collection of short stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle around Sherlock Holmes. They continued Doyle’s improved storytelling style and offered some further interesting insight into the characters, particularly Mycroft.

Some of it made me think I had read before, particularly when Holmes describes how he reads Watson’s thoughts. I’m not sure if it actually was the same as an earlier story or not. It also jumps around quite a bit in terms of when the stories were set and so a bit more of an explanation at the start would have been nice.

His Last Bow

Competent Leader

Saturday, May 24th, 2014 | Photos, Public Speaking


Will be adding this to my CV, alongside my BSc (bronze swimming certificate).


Friday, May 23rd, 2014 | Tech

Recently my iPhone had stopped charging properly. Every time I would plug the lightning connector in, it would either not start charging or start and then immediately stop. I had to plug it in over and over again until it started working.

After having a search around, someone suggested that it might be due to an accumulation of crap inside the lighting connector port and that you could get it out with a toothpick.

I straightened a paperclip and had a dig around to see what I could find. It is amazing how much lint came out!


Sheffield Predators at Yorkshire Rams

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014 | Distractions

The Yorkshire Rams kicked off their 2014 american football season by hosting the Sheffield Predators. The won thanks to a well earned touch down and Sheffield twice snapping the ball over the punters head and into their own end zone for a safety. The Predators scored a late touch down and converted for two, but it wasn’t enough.

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