Live in the UK, die young*

A recent study came out comparing the general health and life expectancy of 19 countries of similar affluence, including the UK. It concluded that:

The British are less likely to live long and healthy lives than the inhabitants of most European countries – and we also trail Australia and Canada, whose people are more likely to be dancing a jig at a lively old age than we are.

One wonders where we'd be without the NHS, of course, but according to the study "how long and healthily we live is not so much about how hospitals look after us – medical care contributes only about 20% to our healthy lifespans – as how we care for ourselves before we get there."

The Guardian, in interpreting this data, offered up 10 ways to live longer which include moving to Japan. Japan has the highest life expectancy in the world not just because of diet but also because:

 "Japanese people give attention to hygiene in all aspects of their daily life. This attitude might partly be attributable to a complex interaction of culture, education, climate [eg humidity, temperature], environment [eg having plenty of water and being a rice-eating nation] and the old Shinto tradition of purifying the body and mind before meeting others."

The rest of the tips are pretty obvious (don't smoke, move more, eat better, don't stress, etc) but this one is a damning indictment of the north-south divide:

A major study published by the British Medical Journal in 2011 found that people who live in the north of England are 20% more likely to die before the age of 75 than those in the south. The researchers from Manchester University said the gap had reached its widest point for 40 years. The reasons are complex. The researchers said that "socioeconomic, environmental, educational, genetic and lifestyle factors" needed to be looked at – as did the reasons why government efforts to bridge the gap fail. On the other hand, it is far easier to find a stunning and uncrowded beach for a jog on the north-east coast – but swerve the fish-and-chip restaurants and make do with a packet of unsalted peanuts.


*compared to our neighbours and allies, anyway.

via Ten ways to live longer | Life and style | The Guardian.

Virgin Atlantic launching a UK domestic airline

Virgin Atlantic to launch regional carrier | ATWOnline Virgin Atlantic are launching a new UK domestic carrier at the end of this month. They announced the service last year but have finally released details about the new subsidiary. It will carry the Virgin Atlantic titles and livery but will be referred to as Little Red. Of course the airline nerds are up in arms about this but a) it's sub brand that will get little usage and b) what the hell do they know? They could have called it Uncle Richard's Fantabulous Flying Machines for all I care.

Managed properly, this could be a shot in the arm for an airline that has struggled recently. It's being squeezed from all angles from Middle Eastern Carriers, budget carriers, and stronger alliances. Indeed this airline was borne out of remedy slots granted to Virgin Atlantic after BA gobbled up BMI, something which Uncle Richard should have done when he had the opportunity, in my opinion.

The new carrier, which will use four Airbus A320s leased from Aer Lingus, will offer 26 daily flights between London Heathrow and Manchester, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

Virgin Atlantic is taking over the routes as remedy slots that British Airways was forced to cede to maintain competition on UK domestic sectors after its parent company International Airlines Group took over bmi.

Virgin Atlantic to launch regional carrier | ATWOnline.

US Airways and American Airlines Merge to form the world's worst airline.

So American Airlines and US airways have finally tied the knot. This has been coming for a number of months now and is a sad final chapter in the otherwise illustrious history of American Airlines. They've suffered from at least a decade of atrocious management and union bullying that has turned them from one of the global elite airlines into frankly a bit of a joke. Recent high-profile horror stories of flights delayed by days (not hours), seats detaching in mid flight, and disastrous union negotiations have made a bad situation for American even worse. Even a mediocre rebranding effort couldn't take the focus away from a Legacy airline that was drowning in its own mediocrity. But what about plucky US Airways? Remember, US Airways is in fact America West, the latter acquiring the former several years ago. US airways (and former America West) CEO Doug Parker seems to have a knack for pushing these massive merger deals through on a seemingly regular basis. I can't understate how extraordinary it is that America West gobbled up US Airways and now American Airlines, one of the most storied brands in travel history. I never been a fan of US Airways but they've managed to make this recent merger work and I think the spirit of America West still trickles into the product from time to time.

What remains to be seen is if Parker has the wherewithal to steer American Airlines out of its current dilemma or whether he just took a massive gulp from a very poisoned chalice – only time will tell.

Consumer won't see any change for very long time. These types of acquisitions have to go through all types of regulatory redtape before they can even begin to consider how to integrate products, frequent flyer programs, fleets, etc. But I can tell you know that I would rather slam my fingers and adore over and over again that be the project manager on that little endeavor.


American Airlines' parent company filed for bankruptcy protection more than a year ago.

With a history stretching back 80 years, five years' ago, American had grown to be the world's biggest airline.

It was a pioneer of the loyalty programme for frequent fliers and also brought in the system of sliding prices according to demand.

But deep losses pushed the company into bankruptcy, with the company blaming labour costs and the unions blaming poor management.

US Airways, by contrast, has been profitable in recent years.

The two companies have been in discussions since last August when they signed an agreement to exchange confidential information.

The carrier will be run under the American Airlines brand, but the chief executive is expected to be the current US Airways boss, Doug Parker.

Not including affiliates, it will have around 900 aircraft and run more than 3,000 flights, employing 100,000 people.

via BBC News - American Airlines and US Airways poised 'to merge'.

Paring red wine and chocolate = wrong.

Well there's a long-held believe down the drain. Of course you can pair wine with whatever the hell you want but it seems that pairing chocolate and red wine does a disservice to both. Serious Eats breaks down the reasons why they don't work together as well as suggesting the types of chocolates that work with specific wines. (Hint: Port.)

Here's why the combination of red wine and chocolate is never going to truly taste good. Sugar. A sip of dry red wine without any perceptible sweetness will turn bitter and sour when taken with sweetened chocolate. Unless you're munching on plain roasted cocoa nibs, back away from the Cabernet, please.

Pairing wine and chocolate isn't hard, though—look for a wine with some sweetness, and the whole thing can come together beautifully. Don't let the word "sweetness" or the phrase "dessert wine" scare you away. We're not talking about wine coolers here. A proper dessert wine, when paired with a sweet food, will taste less sweet than it might on its own. Think of the wine as the raspberry syrup drizzled across your molten chocolate cake: it adds the contrasting flavor to make the chocolate pop.

via Please Stop Pairing Red Wine and Chocolate | Serious Eats: Drinks.

Why buying local can hurt small farmers

I've been fascinated by this push-pull argument of "shops should source locally." I think it's a flawed, over-simplified view that doesn't take into account massive variations in regional and seasonal growing conditions. Of course you can source locally year round in California but could you do the same in Missouri...or England for that matter? Absolutely not. And applying blanket "sourced locally" policies seems to be hurting local farmers.

During the summer and fall, nearly everything Farris delivers is grown in Missouri. That's Wal-Mart's definition of "local" — produce grown and sold in the same state. In winter, it's a bit tougher to source locally.

In 2010, Wal-Mart pledged to double its local produce sales from 4 to 9 percent by 2015, as part of a new sustainability program and a commitment to support small businesses. While the chain has exceeded that goal – it says 11 percent of its produce sold nationwide comes from local farms — there's little evidence of small farmers benefiting, at least in the Midwest.

Of the eight farms highlighted on Wal-Mart's locally grown web site, five are very large farms by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's definition, with annual sales in the millions of dollars.

via Small Farmers Aren't Cashing In With Wal-Mart : The Salt : NPR.

How do you solve a problem like Tokyo demolition?

Japan Demolition This is a quite extraordinary piece of engineering. Modern Japan has had to solve many architectural challenges, from earthquake damping to wind resistance. But how do you solve the problem of demolition in a city as densely populated as Tokyo? Explosives and other traditional demolition techniques would cause unacceptable disruption and debris, so a company in Japan has developed a way to compress a building down to a manageable size. The video is a must-see.

BBC News - Japan's incredible shrinking building.

An ode to Grand Central Station, 100 years old this month.

Grand Central Station is 100 years old this month.

At the time of its construction, Grand Central was acclaimed as an engineering marvel. In the subterranean depths of Manhattan, a huge space was carved out, where trains could be boarded from platforms at two different levels, which were approached by gently sloping ramps rather than inconvenient stairs, and in terms of lighting and power, it was one of the first railroad stations to be all-electric.

But Grand Central was also architecturally magnificent.

Above ground there arose a spectacular beaux arts creation, all marble and chandeliers and sculpture and glass, the centrepiece of which was a huge and lofty passenger concourse, which drew the eyes of awe-struck passengers heavenwards, where they could marvel at a vast, barrelled ceiling, painted blue and decorated with the signs of the zodiac.

via BBC News - A Point of View: Grand Central, the world's loveliest station.

Drug Cartels Now Have Private Mobile Phone Networks

Necessity is the mother of invention but this really is quite extraordinary. The cartels have a history of innovation to try and thwart the efforts of the DEA and Mexican authorities, my favourite creation being the smuggling submarines. But what's incredible about this is the level of investment in infrastructure. They're clearly long term.

A network that was dismantled just last week provided cartel members with cellphone and radio communications across four northeastern states. The network had coverage along almost 500 miles of the Texas border and extended nearly another 500 miles into Mexico's interior.

Soldiers seized 167 antennas, more than 150 repeaters and thousands of cellphones and radios that operated on the system. Some of the remote antennas and relay stations were powered with solar panels.

via Mexico Busts Drug Cartels Private Phone Networks : NPR.

Google is building an $82 Million dollar private hangar at San Jose Airport

The Google boys love their planes so I guess this makes sense. They currently have a hangar at Moffett Field and there was talk of redeveloping the old "Hangar One" but this probably means those plans have died on the vine.

According to a San Jose Mercury News story, Google's top three executives have at least eight jets, including a twin-aisle Boeing 767 passenger jet that is commonly used by airlines for transcontinental flights.

via San Jose airport lobbies for $82-million hangar for Google jets -

The Mars Rover stumbles across a "whoa" object

Umm...what the heck did Curiosity just find on Mars? My imagination is running wild and I am entirely dismissing the possibility that it's a piece of metal from the Rover itself this time.

Now the rover has imaged a small metallic-looking protuberance on a rock. The protuberance appears to have a high albedo and even projects a shadow on the rock below. The image was taken with the right Mastcam on Curiosity on Sol 173 — January 30, 2013 here on Earth.

  Another Weird Shiny Thing on Mars.

Apple's Biggest Problem is Keeping Good People

When you can sell your AAPL stock for bank and the project you've been working on for 7 years is on its 5th iteration, there's little motivation to stick around. And you don't have Steve Jobs around anymore to send defensive emails to people poaching Apple's talent.

Ultimately, the retention of talent will be Apple’s Achilles’ heel.

The smartest people will always want to be working on the smartest thing. Sometimes that comes together in one amazing project. iOS has been that project for this decade.

via kickingbear» Blog Archive » Three Things That Should Trouble Apple.

Kevin Rose Reigns As The Zen Master Of Silicon Valley Chatter

This is a great profile of Kevin Rose, someone I like to consider a friend. The below really sums up his enthusiasm and excitement for ideas in their purest form. His enthusiasm is utterly infectious.

"I have so many random ideas," he says. "They're great little lifestyle businesses where you could make a couple hundred thousand a year. But they're not necessarily the things that you'd ever invest in or spend the next four or five years of your life battling for the market." So he gives them away--constantly.

via Kevin Rose Reigns As The Zen Master Of Silicon Valley Chatter | Fast Company.

My Year in Cities 2012

2012 was another busy travel year for me with work, speaking and personal travel taking me on 41 flights covering around 100,000 miles. If that seems uncharacteristically vague it's because OpenFlights and TripIt can't seem to agree on the miles I covered. OpenFlights says 95,164 miles and TripIt says 112,203 miles. Either way, I've been lucky enough to travel a lot this year and re-qualified for Virgin Atlantic Gold Status for the 5th year in a row. I didn't think that 2012 would be a busy travel year but, once again, I was proven wrong.

I visited 2 new cities, Tallinn and Beirut, both of which were incredible. And it's taken me way too long but I finally flew on the A380 for the first time - it's like being on a cruise ship only it's not completely awful. I racked up first flights on an ATR-72 and a Dash-8, the latter of which was particularly impressive.   I also flew on 3 new airlines, Finnair, LOT Polish Airlines and Turkish Airlines, all three of whom were excellent, particularly Turkish Airlines who recently won Best European Airline for the 2nd year in a row. A last minute trip to New York allowed me to experience Virgin Atlantic's new A330s and new Upper Class cabin, both of which were a vast improvement on their predecessors.

As always, here's a list of the cities I've been fortunate enough to visit in 2012 along with some stats that OpenFlights generates.

- San Francisco x 5 - Long Beach - New York x 3 - Paris - Helsinki - Tallinn - Uzès x 2 - Geneva x 2 - Reims x 2 - Vilnius - Seattle - Newcastle - Poznan - Singapore - Shanghai - Beirut

Average Distance: 2321mi Average Time: 5h16m Longest: LHR<->SIN, 6758mi, 14h00m Shortest: TLL<->HEL, 62mi, 00h37m

Airlines: Virgin Atlantic - 12 flights Finnair - 4 flights Lufthansa - 4 flights LOT - 4 flights Turkish Airlines - 4 flights Virgin America - 4 flights jetBlue - 3 flights Flybe - 2 flights Singapore Airlines - 2 flights

Weight Loss Update

I'm now down around 45 pounds. I flirted with 50 pounds and that's my ultimate (weightloss) goal but I'd like to get there on a steady, sustainable decline instead of a one off burst. It's been a weird journey so far. I've had friends and family not recognize me, I've had to buy an entirely new wardrobe (I used to hate clothes shopping but now I absolutely love it) and I'm wearing clothes sizes I've never even glanced at before. Not to mention the fact that I'm getting strange and unfamiliar attention from the opposite sex. My wife teases me mercilessly about this.

I thought it might be interesting to note down a few observations and surprises I've had since my initial post on the subject:

I've developed a real love of running. I never thought I would say that but I actually look forward to my daily runs. One of the things I'm struggling with though is my form. I'm definitely not a natural long-distance runner and my style of running is entirely graceless. As a result I think I'm expending more energy than I perhaps should be, and I am quite sore in certain areas in the next morning, especially my right hip for some reason. I'm lead to believe that this is all down to how I run and I have a horrible feeling I'm going to have to re-learn how to run. An extraordinary notion.

Fitness is a fascinating thing. In rare instances I'll go 4 or 5 days without running and assume that I'm really going to suffer when I go out for my next run when in reality it will be the easiest run I've ever done. I'm still not sure why, but I can only assume it's because my fitness is continuously improving and that the rare break of 4 or 5 days is restorative and beneficial to my overall fitness. And it's actually a pretty cool feeling to breeze through a run that would have broken me just a week or two before.

Nutrition is confounding. Recently I went to France for a week and ate so much of their wonderful bread and drank so much of their wonderful wine that I assumed my weight would skyrocket upon my return. Granted, I ran with reasonable regularity while I was there, but didn't think it would offset the carbohydrate explosion I indulged in while I was there. Net weight gain upon my return? 0 pounds. In fact in the subsequent week I dropped to my lowest weight since I was 17 years old.

Carbs = hunger. An interesting side effect of my French bread gorging was that upon returning to a protein-dominated diet, I found myself feeling a lot hungrier during the day and this lasted for at least a week until my "systems" returned to normal. This feeling seems to emerge even if I carb load only for day or two - I'm not really sure it's worth it.

Strength requires patience. I took my son to a playground recently and was goofing off on the monkey bars. Out of nowhere I did eight pull-ups without really even trying. Eight. At the start of this journey I couldn't even get close to doing one pull-up. I looked at my wife in stunned disbelief and all she could say is "'ve never been able to do that before." As soon as we got home I ordered a pull-up bar, one of those ones that slots into any standard doorway. It's the single best investment I've made in this entire process. Now every day I do three sets of 15 pull-ups and three sets of 15 chin-ups and I feel awesome afterwards. I think this further reinforces the really important philosophy of patience when doing something like this. I'm a very impatient person and get down on myself when I don't see instant results but I think this really shows that with time and patience and dedication you can get your improvement. Okay, motivational peptalk over.

Protein is your friend. I haven't really altered my diet much since my original post; I'm still heavy on the protein  and very, very light on carbs and white food. I've slowly been introducing whole grains and brown rice into my diet on a regular basis. I have also found myself "indulging" a little bit more frequently but these are one-off meals, once every couple of weeks as opposed to every meal, every day. That's how I became the "before" guy in my picture at the top of this post. Oh and I've had about six beers since June - I don't miss it nearly as much as I thought I would.

Biking is entirely addictive. I've really gotten into biking, but not in the way a lot of other people seem to. Many of my friends and family enjoy long distance cycling - 3 to 4 hour 20+ mile rides done at a consistent pace. However what I enjoy is 5 to 7 mile sprints, especially if there are hills involved. Using the awesome Strava app, I've created a few circuits near my house and my goal each time I do them is to knock several seconds off my time, especially on the individual hills. Don't get me wrong, I like doing the 20 to 30 mile rides as well but for pure cardio satisfaction those hill sprint circuits are pretty hard to beat.

I can see why weight-loss and fitness is challenging for people with office jobs. I'm lucky, I work from home and if it's sunny at 10:30 on Tuesday morning I'll go out for 45 minute bike ride. I get really frustrated when I'm traveling or not in control of my schedule and I can't get out and run or bike or lift weights , etc. So I can't imagine how frustrating it must be if your schedule is dictated by an office job or some other rigid workday schedule. But it *is* possible so don't get discouraged. It's a question of finding spots in your day, just 45 minutes here and there to knock out a quick run or some weights...that's all it really takes.

I ditched my gym membership. While I was in California for the summer I had access to a really great gym. But my nearest gym here in England is a fair distance and not nearly as well equipped as the gym I was a member of in California. It's also a lot more expensive and I just didn't feel like I was getting my money's worth ,so I canceled my membership. I replaced it with bodyweight exercises, the pull up bar, kettle bells and I'll soon be adding various free weights so that I can continue my weight training regimen.

What's next? I'd like to continue trimming fat, as I still have a ways to go in some areas of my body. Then it will be a question of continually increasing my stamina and fitness as well as  increasing my general strength. I keep reminding myself (and other people) that this isn't a diet or a's a total lifestyle change. I have no intention of ever looking like I did in my "before" photo ever again.


How I lost 30lbs

If you've seen me recently you might have noticed I've lost quite a lot of weight. 31lbs to be precise. I haven't been talking about it much except for the occasional gym check-in on Facebook. But for the first time in about 10 years, I feel "in shape." None of my clothes fit, I have muscle in places that were heretofore overrun with blubber, and I feel pretty fucking awesome. A lot of people have been asking how I did it so I want to share a few things I've learned so far on this ongoing journey.

Village Diamond Jubilee

A lot of my overseas friends have been asking how we celebrated the Diamond Jubilee in our little village. As with many village Diamond Jubilee celebrations ours was spread out over 4 days, with events spread out across the entire village. Instead of longwinded descriptions I thought I would let some of the photos I took of our village Diamond Jubilee celebrations do the talking.

Running your own company

I've been working for myself for two and a half years. I've been fortunate enough to work on a bunch of different projects during that time, both independently, with partners, and with other companies. The structure of those projects has loosely taken the form of my own startups/ideas, investing in and advising other startups, consulting to established companies, and speaking at public and private events. During those engagements I've learned a few things that I'd like to share.

10 Things I'll Never Learn to Appreciate

Try as I might, I will always hate I don't think I'll ever be able to appreciate the following 10 things:

  1. Cruises
  2. Wienerschnitzel
  3. X-Factor/Pop Idol/ Somewhere's got Talent
  4. Disneyland/Disneyworld
  5. MMORPGs
  6. Real Ale
  7. Louis Theroux
  8. Steampunk
  9. High fashion
  10. Failure
  11. Bonus 11th - Music in Offices

Rent vs Own in 2012

When my wife and I moved to England we weren't sure how long we were going to be here so we opted to rent a house instead of buying. It was the first time we'd been renters in a long time but it seemed like the most logical thing to do. Weirdly we would be both tenants and landlords at the same time as we were renting out our house in California at the time. 4 years has gone by and we're still renting. Different house, different town but recently I've seen a lot of commentary and opinion on rent vs. own in 2012 and as a result I've been doing a lot of thinking about my past forays into the housing market and I wanted to share some of my thoughts and experiences.