• Video Games and Neuroscience

    leweb-2014-logo-100x100The actual title of this session at LeWeb was Video Games and Neuroscience: A Vision of the Future of Medicine and Education. At first I was not going to attend but gazzlab_logoread a little more about what was being covered and headed that way. Glad I did it was very good and a much different insite of the use of video games for understanding how the brain works. Can video games fend off brain decline as we get older? That is the question and from the research Adam Gazzaley and his team are doing it would seem so. Adam is head of The Gazzaley lab which is a cognitive neuroscience research lab at the University of California. One part of the research he described was the use of a video game they have developed called NeuroRacer. The monitored a wide range of ages performing multitasking activities with the game and found that the peak was from people in their mid 20s and this declined each decade. neuroracer-midline-frontal-theta

    They then let older members practice the game for one hour a day for three days a week for four weeks and found that the multi tasking capabilities dramatically improved in the older users and this remained several months after they stopped playing the game. The diagram on the left shows the brain post training with the video game in the older members. The red and yellow areas a much better to have and you can see that initially they beat the younger adults. As of today, 11th December 2014, the game is not available on the market but is going through medical trials. For the full details have a read here.

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  • LeWeb Paris

    leweb-2014-logo-100x100

    LeWeb

    Spending a few days in Paris attending LeWeb for the first time. Have wanted to attend for many years but for various reasons have never managed to get here but determined this year and glad I have. It is probably the most important and popular conference in Europe and it comes through with the number of sessions, speakers and sponsors. The conference is spread across several buildings and has two main stages and several workshops.

    Getting here was easy enough and checkin was simple as well, in fact I was able to pick up my entry badge on Monday thus making life much easier this morning when I got here via the Metro. The conference comes with a very extensive programme and a bit of work is needed up front to decide what sessions to attend across the two stages.

    This morning the first session was a discussion with Fred Wilson. I’ve followed his blog for some time and heard him speak on video last year. He has an excellent job investing in early stage companies throughout the world and as you would expect he has a very good view of what is going to happen in the future. One of the biggest improvement areas in 215 will be health and wellness, the sector has grown this year and will continue to rocket next year. So if you are looking for investment if you are in this area you have managed to get over the first hurdle. He also talked a lot about electric cars and driverless cars and the growth in that area over the coming year, will post more on this later.  Throughout the show there are a lot of speakers from various VCs who have over the years raised many millions of dollars and what is still as clear as it was 10 years ago is that if you are in Silicon Valley you have access to a much wider set of funds.

    What is interesting about the conference attendees is the range of people attending from all sorts of ages and it is not so male dominated which is a good thing.

     

     

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  • Researching a new bar

    20141106_190751What a difference a week makes and how cold it is out there now. After food tonight to headed to a new Wine bar called Petrus. Small and cosy and tonight very quiet. I had decided to choose the one night the chef was off so wine it was and a good taste. In the end they managed to rattle up some cheesy chip (the healthy type of course) and another glass to wash it down. Definitely a place to head back to on a Friday evening when they have live music.

    The place was very nice and worth the visit. Where they do need to improve is their website, lets the place down and doesn’t do it justice or sell its20141106_204022elf.

    Then out for a wander and stopped of at a favourite place, Abbeygate cafe. Been there many times and always good place to go with plenty of options for food and drink. Had a coffee but also had to force myself to try out the new Mocha cake which the chef had cooked. He needed some feedback on the quality so no choice in reality and well worth it and gave it 9/10 :)

    Only snag is I knew shouldn’t have had that cake and needed a long walk to get rid of it.

     

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  • SSE in need of help…

    So after the Snowsport England AGM yesterday I thought I would jot down a couple of suggestions to help them make the necessary early changes to the committees, yeah I know I’m really helpful at times :). It’s nothing new and things I have suggested in the past and several other people have suggested the same things. Will there be change before the recommendations are approved at the next couple of board meetings? You would like to think so and that they would take the opportunity to be pro-active and accept the changes they need to make. My gut feeling though is that certain people will continue to cling onto power and come up with feeble excuses for not changing, or they will be seen to do something but in reality keep the people and just juggle things around.

    The main Alpine committee is ASC or ARC (not really sure what it is called now). Alpine Snowsports Committee or Alpine Race Committee, should be the latter so we’ll go for that. ARC has a sub committee called Race Organisation Technical Panel (ROTP). It is very difficult to find the terms of reference of the committees but apparently they do exist somewhere. One of the first things they need to do is define what is the purpose of ARC and its own terms of reference. Is it there to just look after the top end racing, encourage grass roots, work with schools, provide guidance on rules, training, fund raising, organising of the top end races, developing the sport, trying new ideas, more or less? The way they work today is very much along the lines of talking shops with very little actually happening.

    Some of the problems and challenges we have today with the committees are;

    - unclear terms of reference
    - incorrect people on the committees
    - too many people with self interests and not focusing on the bigger picture
    - lack of focus and clear direction
    - lack of leadership
    - lack of ownership and responsibility
    - very little transparency and accountability
    - communication. Doesn’t exist and needs to improve

    What is important to remember are that like most committees they are made up of some very good people and it is the dead wood which needs removing and replacing. What we need is to hope that the changes are far reaching and not just cosmetic. Cosmetic is easy real change now needs to come from radical changes to the committees, structure and people otherwise the status quo will remain. So just a few things that can be done quickly and effectively;

    - disbanded ROTP
    - keep the existing ARC chair and allow him to have the authority and autonomy to make the necessary changes, role will now be accountable to the SSE board
    - agree terms of reference for ARC
    - advertise the roles on the newly formed ARC and allow people time to apply
    - ARC should create sub-committees as and when required for a short period and these sub-committees report back to ARC and have to deliver. An example of this is the annual calendar two people for four months cover the initial work, training could have a couple of people researching ways to improve participation and report back
    - the above will give much better control over costs and delivery. The talking shops should reduce and people become more focused.
    - encourage better working practices with other clubs and regions and this will go some way to removing the ‘them and us’ attitudes seen by so many people across the sport. This will also help remove the arrogance that exists in some of the same people. Improve the collaboration and other ideas will flow.

    Just a few small thoughts and nothing rocket science in this and should be easy to do. Most people are afraid of change and failure. Too many are afraid to try changes in case they fail so progress is slow. These sort of problems are not unique to SSE and you see them every day in the real world of business. Change has to be driven forward and needs true ownership.

    Anyway let’s see what happens over the coming month. If nothing or the same people just moved around then may more people will become disillusioned and that will be bad for the sport. There is an opportunity here now for people to make encourage true change.

     

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  • Hot Numbers …

    20141031_215934If you are in Cambridge any time soon and especially in the evening then head over to Hot Numbers cafe. 20141031_211921 (1)

    Excellent little place which serves brilliant tasting coffee in a comfortable environment. Many nights there is music playing and different styles of Jazz which gives the place a very good atmosphere. They also have some very tasty cakes to keep you going :).

    Ideal if you want to plug in and charge as there are plenty of sockets around. Been there twice now and both times just as good with an interesting mix of people. The other night they have an excellent caramel shortbread, naughty but nice :) oh the sacrifices you have to make in the name of research.

    It is off the beaten track a little but well worth the walk over to it. Plenty of other cafes in Cambridge but not many like this.

    Marks out of ten, 9/10 I think :)

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  • Snowsport England AGM

    Snowsport England AGM today up at Loughborough and headed up there this morning. Not sure how the day was going to pan out but one thing for sure is that it would not be quiet. There has been a Governance review taking place for over 18 months now and it has long been overdue. The board brought in someone from outside the skiing community to conduct the review and it has looked at the whole setup and structure of the sport in England.

    Any review that takes place will come up with recommendations that will always create further discussion both good and bad. There is so much wrong with the corporate structure and the committees that getting everything right straight away is impossible. It has been clear over the past few weeks that some people have several reservations about the proposals and were going to vote against the changes. What has been interesting about objections is that I haven’t any suggestions for improvement from these people, just ‘this is wrong because of x,y,z…’.

    So in attendance today was most of the SSE board and several members from Snowsports across England. For such an important AGM I was surprised at how few were there, probably 30-35 people, plus the legal representative and someone from the insurance company Endsleigh. Several proxy votes had already been cast but clubs and other members but it still looked pretty close. There was a little excitement and confusion at the start of proceedings as we got into the events in the right legal order but it soon passed into a healthy discussion about the changes. The first proposal to change the names from English Ski Council to Snowsport England was easy enough. The next resolution was somewhat more challenging and generated the greatest discussion, the changes to the Articles of Association.

    The biggest concerns here were the changes proposed for clubs and regions. Clubs voting themselves out of a vote for the future and allowing one member one vote. This makes sense and will give SSE what it wants regarding numbers and what it has to deliver to Sport England, but it still does not address some of the concerns raised about clubs and the impact on them. In reality clubs are needed still and how the interaction works in the future is going to be interesting. SSE will eventually communicate directly with members and that is fine, but what is a concern is how this communication will work with the clubs and the regions for that matter.

    Personally the biggest impact is the impact on the region. I can see what they want to do for the future and many of the changes are directed at those regions that do not do anything or very little. However the discussions that have taken place to date give the impression that there will be an impact on the likes of ERSA, SRSA and LSERSA who are the very active regions today. It is the practicalities on the ground that concern me more than anything. No problem changing if we have to and it makes sense but I want to know more. This was discussed at length and what is clear is that there needs to be much more discussion about the detail in the coming months and this was promised. No problem being more accountable to SSE and there are certainly some areas we need to be, such as the regional grant, but at the same time we already struggle with time and anything that introduces much more administrative overhead will not be welcome. Certainly one to watch in the next twelve months.

    Most of the noise came from the northern clubs / regions and while they raised several concerns I heard very few suggestions for improvements! All very well objecting to the changes but what else should SSE do?

    One bit of feedback which was quite interesting is that SSE is looking for more board directors and they have been advertising. They have had a lot of responses but virtually nothing from Snowsport related people, which they are obviously disappointed about. Not sure where they have advertised as this was the first time I have heard about it! Some aspects of SSE communication has improved over the past few months but this is still something that must have missed that improved process. I had thought about suggesting to the Northern guys that one of them should join the board to ensure the changes are progressed in a satisfactory way.

    The terms of references are being drafted for board review for the five key committees and hopefully they should be approved soon. At the moment we have major problems with ASC and ROTP and they are not accountable, transparent and deliver very little. For a long time I and others have been saying that ROTP should be disbanded and ASC the main committee which initiates sub-committees as and when something is needed and for a short period of time. I asked how soon we can see changes and next weekend there is an ASC meeting and in theory ROTP will be disbanded then. All very well but I would like to see exactly what happens as we do not want the same people just moving around. I can see this one rumbling on for some time to come.

    One thing I would like to do is thank Jeremy Eaton and his team for the work on this over the last few months. In general it was good to get the changes progressed and over the next year or two we should see positive change come but we do need to ensure some of the personnel are changed at the same time to ensure progression is made. SSE has to change to keep up with everything else how it gets there is going to be interesting.

     

     

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  • Sunday Brunch

    logo-smallSo the theme today was food. After breakfast at Paddy and Scott’s then had a wander around as had a few errands and managed to burn up a bit of energy in the process so wondered where next. Decided to head over to Abbeygate Cinema where they have do some excellent food. As it was almost midday I went for Sunday Brunch which is the first time I have had that there before. Plenty of choices but went for a cheese omelette and coffee. Tasted excellent and was just enough, definitely something I will be doing again. I didn’t take a picture though this time clearly thinking too much about my stomach but it was well worth it. Their menu is here so see what you fancy, their burgers are very good :). They also do some excellent cakes and I did wonder about grabbing a piece of the Old Fashioned Chocolate cake to eat later but decided against in the end, maybe next time…

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  • Paddy & Scott’s cafe

    20141026_095527-1I have never come across Paddy & Scott’s cafe before but they have opened a new one in Bury St Edmunds recently. So being in Bury this morning I thought I would wonder over for breakfast as it was open at 9am and should have been up and running by the time I got there. Arrived soon after 9.30am. First impressions very good the place is clean and looks very inviting. Ordered the normal black Americano (black means no milk amazing how many Barista’s don’t listen). Quite a selection of food but wanted a Pain Au Choc but these would be a few more minutes as they were still cooking! Surprised as the place had been open for a while but waited for it to arrive and it was certainly worth it, a nice warm Pain Au Choc to start the day. Only comment is that it could have been a little bigger was still peckish when finished.

    Someone came in about 15 minutes later and asked for the same thing and told they were in the oven. Seems like they only cook a very small number at a time which is odd in the morning, they certainly missing sales there. Excellent music playing in the background gave it a good atmosphere. The other thing they have going for them is somewhere to sit with lots of power sockets for laptops and phone charging. This is something that many other cafe’s need to get installed as I am sure it will increase sales nowadays.

    All in all a good start to the day and will return shortly to see how they getting on. 7/10 for the first time.

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  • Gone Girl

    If you are looking for a good movie to fill a couple of hours you could go and watch Gone Girl. Full of twists and turns and you certainly have to pay attention. Beforehand I did wonder why it was an 18 movie but it was obvious once it got going. Here is a summary from one of the websites,

    An exhausted-looking man stands in front of a crowd of journalists. Behind him is a large poster of a pretty woman below the word ‘missing’. Welcome to David Fincher’s dark new vision of Gone Girl. Based on Gillian Flynn’s 2012 bestseller, this is another deceptive and irresistible thriller from the man behind SE7EN, ZODIAC and the English-language version of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. Ben Affleck stars as Nick Dunne, one half of a seemingly perfect marriage, his wife Amy played by the excellent Rosamund Pike. The story follows the couple as they downsize from New York to Nick’s hometown. All is well until their fifth wedding anniversary, when Amy inexplicably goes missing, and soon enough Nick is singled out as the prime suspect in her disappearance. Needless to say, nothing and no one gives up the answers easily.

    It is well made and an excellent thriller that keeps you gripped throughout and easily scores a 9 out of 10 from me. If you don’t go to the cinema much you should make the effort for this one. You do sit there trying to get the next direction the plot will take, you are rarely right.

    Realised I have seen loads of movies over the past year but written very little about them here will have to rectify that I think good to remember what I think about them.

     

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  • Amazon Web Services

    Amazon Web Services, AWS, is a very powerful service and if you need Cloud hosting is something well worth looking at. I have used it for a some time and utilised heir small free tier hosting server for the past year. I haven’t done a huge amount with it over the past year just ran the server with a few websites.

    There is a lot that can be done with the environments and recently I decided to do more with the servers and expand the sites. I am running a mix of WordPress and Drupal and sometimes have found that I am running out of memory. The micro servers only came with 512mb to no wonder. So time to look at the options on offer and the associated pricing. Having decided on a medium sized server which will not be too pricey each month I them looked at how to move the sites in a safe easy way.

    In the past when I have moved sites from one server to another it has been very painful and has meant setting up the new server, attaching a test DNS entry, get the copy running and test it then eventually switch over the main domain to the new server. This time though I had the new server up and running in less than 45 minutes and that wasn’t moving very quickly!

    First with the existing server I took a snapshot of the storage and left the existing site running. Then I created a new EC2 instance and attached it to the snapshot storage just created. Assigned this a temporary Elastic IP, updated my hosts files to point to the temporary IP and tested the sites on the new server. There they were working without any other input from me. I then moved the existing Elastic IP over to the new server, shutdown the old server and it was done!

    Incredibly easy and took no time at all. Very impressive and will now do far more with AWS over the coming year.

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