Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Masochistic commuters?

This arrived in my Feedreader today:
Half of passengers unhappy with cost of rail travel (The Guardian)

Correct me if I'm wrong but Britain has the most expensive trains in Europe (or the World?) and all that for a poor service. And the situation is not improving, as "regulated fares, which cover season tickets and saver tickets, have risen in price by an average of 3.9%, while unregulated fares, which include cheap day returns, have increased by 4.5%."

Yet, "45% [of passengers] said they were satisfied they were getting good value, while 33% said they thought ticket prices offered poor value."

Have we found the masochistic half of the population?

Link: Rail Passenger Council

Friday, January 20, 2006

Richmond and Twickenham Times: Commuters see red over level crossing

The North Sheen station footbrige issue is catching media's eye in vew residents outrage: read this this article from the Richmond and Twickenham Times by Sara Woods, Commuters see red over level crossing.

Every week we see commuters and school children the jumping level crossing barriers. Will the crossing be improved before a fatality occurs?

Read on Richmond Transits' campaign for a footbridge at North Sheen:

And also :-)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The prejudice map

Great Google Prejudice Map from Google Blogoscoped, showing clichés associated to countries thanks to an automated Google search.

The rest of the blog by Philipp Lenssen covers, well Google, and is one of the most complete I've seen around...

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

How to search on Google?

Most people are overwhelmed when getting results from a google search and think they simply can't find anything on the internet.

Here's a quick guide on how to search with google (also applies to Yahoo! and other search engines):

1. Using simple boolean operators helps, like with the following example:

  • searching for [ludovic windsor] (without the square brackets) returns fourty-thousand and one hundred results
  • the same query but for the exact phrase ["ludovic windsor"] (with the quotes but not the square brackets) only returns 98 results, so this filters
  • using the boolean operator AND plus another search term, we finally find this blog out of only 3 results: ["ludovic windsor" AND Richmond]

2. A search is like a funnelling process: you need to refine your query to reduce the search results more and more, by iterations. So keep adding relevant keywords, synonyms to get a more specific answers.

3. You can use more advanced functions by simply clicking on "advanced search", exclude terms, etc...

4. Finally, check this great resource: Google Help : Cheat Sheet

Monday, January 16, 2006

You are what you eat: RTFL and go slow

Where should I start? Almost every week we learn of new ways food is tinkered with and trick to deceive the consumer.

Here’s the last one: Fresh apples, only stored for one year... (The Sunday Times, 11/12/05)
The apples are stored in warehouses (I’ve read a few years back that they are in complete darkness and that the air is deprived from oxygen to slow down the ripening) and sprayed with a chemical called 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP) and sold by AgroFresh under the SmartFresh brand. It blocks the ripening process by being “a kind of placeholder in the space where ethylene sits”. Versions for bananas and avocados exist. The article doesn’t say what it does to the vitamin contents but I would bet it’s quite low after a year!
So if you ever wondered why when you bought supermarket fruits (Sainsbury has confirmed using SmartFresh) they went from hard to rotten straight-away, here you go… (Check AgroFresh’s FAQ on cold storage apples)

Another article I’ve read recently in the same publication and referenced here explains how the sugar content has doubled in apples in the last 60 years while levels of minerals have decreased between ¼ and ¾.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away? Think twice! This is very deceiving for consumers who want and think they’re buying healthy and natural products.

This freaks me out.

But more insidious is what goes in processed food (Processed foods are to blame for the sharp rise in obesity levels and chronic disease around the globe, according to the World Health Organization, read more here and there). So check the label, the sugar and fat contents.
It’s also better to eat healthy natural products (fruits, vegetables) than “diet products” which are full of chemicals (for instance soft drinks with aspartame still provokes an insulin surge and that may in turn cause a food craving (read here, there and there). So if you’re dieting, try wean yourself from your appetite for sweet.

At a higher level, there’s a link between obesity (especially for the poorest part of the populations) and the fact that in the last three decades fat, processed foods and sugars have steadily declined in price while fruits and vegetables are becoming relatively more expensive (read here, there and there). Just go to your Sainsbury’s and try to shop with two baskets: you’ll load one with vegetables, natural yogurt and fish while the other will be processed foods. Check which one is cheaper and it’s likely it will be the “calorie-dense” one.
For more, read The Economics of Obesity (09/05) on the Center for the Advancement of Health site:

In the United States, energy-dense foods tend to taste good, are more convenient to buy, store and cook, and are much cheaper than energy-poor foods, Drewnowski says. “There are data from the USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture] to the effect that prices for fruits and vegetables jumped by 130 percent or so in the past 20 years, whereas prices for sugar, fat and sweetened beverages increased by no more than 30 percent,” he notes.

What to do then? Shop locally at farmer’s markets (what is the impact on the environment and local farming to eat New Zealand lamb and South-African apples?), read the label and make sure you keep salt, saturated fat and sugars low, sit down with your kids to eat a meal together.

You are what you eat. Go local, read the freaking label and eat slowly.

Other links:

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Wiki: List of British English words not used in American English

Great resource for fellow UK bloggers or if you work in a multinational company:

Monday, January 09, 2006

Preliminary plans for North Sheen footbridge rebuffed

I just received an update from Susan Kramer on why (re-)building the footbridge for North Sheen station is taking so long: apparently the first project plan was not conclusive and Network Rail designers have been sent back to the drawing board (see VR illustration below).

Previous posts on this (serious) subject:

Friday, January 06, 2006

Restaurant review: the Cinnamon Club

I went yesterday night to this exquisite restaurant located in the Old Westminster Library: The Cinnamon Club.

I started with some char grilled king prawns with dill and carom seeds, followed with some roast pheasant with green spices, mint and onion sauce, aubergine crush and finished with a saffron poached pear with cinnamon ice cream. Everything was exquisite, including the side stuffed naans and the curry Rajasthani sangri beans. Words are not enough to describe this fireworks for the senses, very fine cuisine.

The wines matched superbly the food, we had a saint joseph (white côte du Rhône) and although I usually avoid Chapoutier as they're a wine house and not a grower this was a very nice example of the viogner grape. The red was a Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel, very plummy and nice but as usual with Californian wines I have a (light) headache this morning -I can't prevent myself from thiking that they tinker too with what should be a natural product in the US. We finished nicely with a Baumes de Venise.

A top address!

The Cinnamon Club
The Old Westminster Library
Great Smith Street
London SW1P 3BU
Telephone: 020 7222 2555

Tags: , ,

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Links and more

Worked a bit on the blog after recovering from the festive season and added links to local pubs and restaurants.

Comments welcome!