Archive for April, 2016

Are we doing charity wrong?

Saturday, April 30th, 2016 | Thoughts, Video

At TED2013, Dan Pallotta made the case that we think about charities the wrong way. We judge them by what percentage of our donation goes to the ‘end cause’, and not on results. This prevents them from competing with for-profit business because they cannot spend big on hiring the best people, marketing and fundraising.

A number of these points resonate with me.

First, I choose to work in the private sector, rather than the third sector. I suspect I might enjoy working for a charity more than I enjoy my current job. However, just like Pallotta points out, it is simply far more profitable for me to do it this way round. By earning a good salary in the private sector I am able to feed my family and have enough left over to fund my foundation.

Second, in my time being involved in CWF, I know I have had thoughts, and probably conversations, along the lines of “how will that affect our charitable spending?” This means we have a great spending ratio, 93.8% in our last financial year, but essentially means that we could well have made some bad decisions in order to keep this number high.

The Problem with Methane

Friday, April 29th, 2016 | Humanism


This month’s talk at West Yorkshire Humanists was John ‘Compost’ Cossham talking about “The Problem with Methane”.

John gave the same talk at Leeds Skeptics a year ago, and I came away with the same gloomy feeling this time, even though I knew what was coming. We are totally fucked. If we think we have fucked up the climate this far, wait until the feedback loops kick in. Climate change causes methane release, that causes more climate change.

John however, is much more upbeat. He is confident that we can change society, reduce our carbon footprint and continue boldly on as a species. He says the world can support all 7,000,000,000 of us, as long as we live in an ecological way. This was heartwarming because in the back of my mind I always wondered whether our population could actually be sustainable in the long term.

After the talk we held our usual social in The George, which was well attended also.

Remington D8700 PROtect review

Thursday, April 28th, 2016 | Reviews

I am sad to report that after ten years of faithful service, my Carmen hair dryer has given up. I have replaced it with the Remington D8700 PROtect. It was recommended by Which Magazine as their best buy. As my Carmen is the only other dryer I can remember using, I will be spending most of this post comparing the two.

It is bulky. Here is a picture of it, comparing it to my old one, and with a compact hair dryer thrown in for scale.


Not only is it bulkier, it also noticeably heavier. The Carmen was really light. In comparison, this feels weightier when you pick it up. Then there are the buttons. The Carmen had sliders, whereas the Remington has rocker switches.


These are easy to knock when passing it from hand to hand, and making holding it more difficult.

Once you get past these issues, it dries well. It dried my hair as fast as the Carmen and comes with the same heat and speed options.

Rodley Barge

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016 | Sport


If you run far enough up the Leeds Liverpool Canal, you eventually reach the Rodley Barge pub. How you actually get over the canal to have a pint is less clear. However, it does make a convenient place to stop and turn around. This could well be the furthest I ever run up the canal as I don’t have any plans to do longer distances.

Hear and Now

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016 | Reviews

Hear and Now is a meditation app that focuses on deep breathing. It only takes a few minutes to do: you hit go, it gives you a 40 second warm up, 12 guided deep breaths and then a cool down. At the end it reports back on how you have done.

Results were mixed. You self-measure how you feel at the start of each session (very stressed, stressed, relaxed, very relaxed). I never felt any better after it. It feels like quite a big jump between each point, though my mood never really changed anyway.

The feedback is a little confusing. For example, it might tell me that my pNN50 has increased from 0.38 to 0.50. It has an explanation of what pNN50 is, but so what? What am I supposed to do with that information? I suppose it could potentially be useful if it fed back into Apple Health, but it doesn’t.

At the end you get an overall breathing quality from 0% (rubbish) to 100% (perfect). This varied from day to day. One day I got 44%, over days I got 20%. It said keep practicing to improve it but after two weeks I had not improved. It was just random. Critically, it doesn’t tell you how to improve or what you are doing incorrectly.

I did like the fact that is was so quick to complete every day. However, I did not feel I gained any benefit from it.


Nike shop

Monday, April 25th, 2016 | Reviews


Elina usually buys her footwear from Deichmann. It’s the logical choice. They put all the shoes out there so you can help yourself to a box and try them on. None of this ‘having to interact with someone’ nonsense, that Elina especially hates. After all, it is weird. Sometimes they even take the shoe out and put it on your foot. It’s no surprise some people find that uncomfortable.

While we were at Crown Point, we dropped in to the Nike store. I was curious about how you filled a big retail space exclusively with Nike products. Half of the store is given over to trainers. These, like Deichmann, are just on the shelves for you to help yourself. Prices are really good too. Elina picked up a new pair of trainers for £26. I’ll go here next time, as it’s a nice shopping experience.


Finally we made it home with our new purchases. Being the modern couple that we are: Elina with her sporting goods, and me with my new hair dryer, after my old one packed up last week.

Craske jam: a review

Sunday, April 24th, 2016 | Food, Reviews


My friend Howell recently gave me a pot of his homemade jam. It was actually made at his godparent’s house in Anglesey, but is still technically homemade because it was made at a home, rather than in a factory.


Excellent flavour. The lovely strawberry comes through very well. There was scope for a little more strawberry tang, but a great performance overall.


Great texture. Reasonably thick, but not so much that it impedes your knife. Some whole fruit would not have gone amiss, but then is it more of a preserve?


Very spreadable. When spreading over a slide of bread I was able to achieve a consistent covering with just the right amount of lumps to make a few extra-jammy spots.


I hereby award this jam a very respectable four jam-pots.


Fatherhood: The Truth

Saturday, April 23rd, 2016 | Books

Fatherhood: The Truth is a 2004 book by Marcus Berkmann.

Compared to other books I have read, this one is not showing its age too much. It is a world away from the carefully laid out fact-type books. Berkmann writes in rambling prose loosely grouped into chapters. This means that it is difficult to pick out the actual advice and facts from the book, but does make it far more entertaining. In many places, it is laugh-out-loud funny.

True to its word, it is also an honest book. It does go into detail about all the piss, shit and sick you can look forward to in your first year as a parent (and beyond).

And the sleep. Dear god, the sleep. Of anything I have read, this book has given me the most pause for thought as to what we have actually got ourselves into. Still, probably best to keep chipping away at those hopes now so that nothing remains by Christmas.

After all that, it would have been nice for a more positive ending to the book. There was one, but I was feeling pretty depressed by that point. Still, at least it inspired me to start researching babysitters…


The truth about printing flyers

Friday, April 22nd, 2016 | Thoughts


I sit on the leadership or organising teams for a lot of different community groups, and have done so for many different organisations over the years. Regularly, someone suggests that what we really need to do, is get some nice flyers printed. In fact, often this person is me. This is a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ post.

The truth is, you will bin most of those flyers. Here is why:

Flyers are relatively easy to produce. You find someone who can use a graphic design tool, they knock together a flyer, and you send it off to a printer. Quite easily you get a really professional glossy flyer that you are sure will attract people to your group.

Then the delivery turns up. A massive A4 square size box containing thousands of flyers. These then sit in your house for years. If you are proactive, the box will be almost entirely undistributed. Otherwise, it will be entirely undisturbed.

The problem is that printing flyers is super easy. Distributing them however, is not. Sure, people say they will do it. At the meeting when someone suggested getting some flyers, everyone said they would give some out. But they won’t. First, you need to give them some. The box is really heavily, so you can only take a handful at a time. Ditto, they can only take a handful at a time. Second, they don’t know where to put them. If you live in a block of flats, you can probably put one through people’s mailbox. That is about it.

Unless you work as an events promoter, you probably don’t know where to take the flyers. You might see somewhere when you are at your local fish and chip shop, or community education centre. However, you can bet good money that you will have forgotten to bring flyers on that occasion. And by the time you remember the flyers, you will have forgotten where you were going to take them. It’s fine saying “we will just go round the blocks of flats and try and get buzzed in”, but nobody actually wants to do this in practice because it is awkward and embarrassing and you feel guilty for posting junk through innocent people’s mailboxes.

Third, people don’t want to commit the time, because it’s a waste of time. Purposely going somewhere to take some flyers might be a 30-minute round trip. That is big a chunk out of your day. For flyers that probably nobody will look at. The response rate might be one in a thousand. Is that a good use of your time? You might think so, but chances are that the other people volunteering at your group don’t feel the same way: especially when it comes to actually getting up and doing it.

So your lovely flyers just sit in the box until you feel its time for a clear-out and reluctantly bin them.

You will be binning a lot of them. Economies of scale are at fault here. Most of the cost is in the setup of the print job, not in the printing. This means that it basically costs the same to print 5,000 as it does to print 100. So you will get the 5,000 because it seems to make sense. Even though there is no hope of giving more than 100 out.

There are scenarios when flyers can work. The Anxiety Leeds flyers are actually one of the success stories of my flyering history. We posted piles of them to GPs surgeries, and this turned out to be a cost and time-effective way of distributing them. Even then though it has problems: finding volunteers to post them out (listing surgeries, envelope stuffing, writing the envelopes, taking them to the post office), securing grant money to pay for postage, still having too many flyers, flyers becoming out-of-date and needing re-printing.

In summary, think very carefully before you get any flyers printed. How many can you actually distribute? How are you going to distribute them? Will people follow through on their promises to distribute them? How long will they be relevant for? If you cannot answer these questions satisfactorily, printing flyers may be a waste of time and money.

Britain’s Coming Home

Thursday, April 21st, 2016 | Religion & Politics, Video

If this doesn’t convince you, nothing will…