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White noise, his only friend
A million miles from anywhere.
He surveyed again the binary sun
Whose gravity had him snared.

Shadows crawled across twitching dials.
He could do nothing but despair.
These majestic stellar souls entwined
With invisible gravity, unaware.

On the outer rim of the Milky Way
For millennia they had danced there.
His life’s journey to touch the souls of stars;
Fifty years on — still getting nowhere.

Frozen for a moment as the corona
Of one star erupted and sent out a flare.
Blindsided. Intoxicated. Lost. Found.
Head spinning. Heart pounding. Scared.

Had he just touched the hand of God
Or been touched by angels? Did he dare
Dream his quest fulfilled, or his journey
Never done? Agape. Wide-eyed, he stared. …

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Photo by Wesual Click on Unsplash

In the restaurant trade, we are confronted with more and more allergies and special dietary requirements these days. Part of this is awareness of how different foods affect us, part of it is greater sensitivity of diagnostics for people who actually have a medical condition, and part of it is just a food fad.

So, why the sudden increase in gluten intolerance in the past 50 years? Experts have given the following reasons as potential causes (courtesy of Three Bakers):

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Tech from The Expanse TV show

Last week I read an article on the Business Advice website about a recent study which predicts that High Street Shopping (retail) will die out in 2082 as all retail sales will be made online.

While the article suggests the necessary human element of retail may prolong this, it doesn’t consider the evolution of the online experience. It is also hard to assume a straight-line reduction in the shift to online.

Tech enables a Paradigm Shift away from the Physical

When we look at shows like The Expanse on Netflix (which is great sci-fi if you’re interested) — the tech on display here takes things like “AirDrop” to a whole new level, allows devices to hand off content to each other seamlessly and adds intelligent overlays which adapt to what’s on-screen. …

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This has been based on the excellent piece on PwC about the restaurant sector at the end of 2017, with additional commentary from me based on developments in 2018 and my view of the market from the inside.

Food for thought

PwC: The restaurant sector has performed well in recent years with market growth underpinned by long-term demographic and consumer trends. But market conditions have become more competitive, consumers are facing pressure on their real incomes from rising inflation and cost pressures are increasing. A more cautious outlook on the sector is justified.

Me: Recent high-profile chain closures and restructuring including Toys R Us, Prezzo, Barbecoa, Jamies Italian, Strada, Byron and Maplin will have a significant impact on the high street (thousands of jobs are about to go). The ‘cautious’ outlook is justified, though I would suggest ‘concern’ is more appropriate for the chains. …

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I’ve been running restaurants for a little over 10 years now and employees have always been a fickle bunch; here today, gone the next. It’s a sad fact of the industry that employees, especially the more junior ones, hop between jobs. Sometimes they are just doing the work to fill in and earn some cash before their next real gig comes along. Sometimes they are just lazy and go back to claim benefits rather than work for a living to improve their situation over the long term. …

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A scene from the film Elysium — Los Angeles in Ruins

An article posted in the Spring this year finds Stephen Hawking — just one of many scientists — who see the possible near-term demise of our species. The article on took his arguments (and others) and did some analysis which shows he might not be far off.

While apocalyptic beliefs about the end of the world have, historically, been the subject of religious speculation, they are increasingly common among some of the leading scientists today. This is a worrisome fact, given that science is based not on faith and private revelation, but on observation and empirical evidence.

You’ll see a recurring theme on this site about the dire effects of global warming and climate change, ranging from the release of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth 10 years ago, through to posts on rising temperatures, the human impact on the biosphere and more (just check out the threads on climate change from the menu above). …

However, the downside is equally scary, as movies such as Jurassic World have entertained us with. Mixing different genetic materials into an ‘animate’ species (forget for the moment we have been doing this with plants for a while and still don’t know the long-term effect of ingesting such foreign matter) has a knock-on effect on the ecosystem around them. Further, insects can easily be transported accidentally across international boundaries and introduce their new traits in foreign and unexpected parts, potentially decimating an ecosystem that was not intended to be affected. …

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An article posted today on Business Insider reminded me of my earlier post ten years ago referring back to the same period (the 80s) when the problem crystallised. Here we are 30 years later and little has changed.

Twenty-nine years ago, James Hansen, the director of NASA’s Institute for Space Studies, told the US Senate that the question of the day — whether climate change was happening — was no longer in doubt. Hansen’s testimony before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on June 23, 1988, is frequently considered the most important climate change hearing in history.

The question Hanson’s testimony raised was what would be done about that threat. Leading scientists had spoken; political leaders had the information; and even ExxonMobil researchers had privately concluded that “major reductions in fossil fuel combustion” would be needed to prevent “potentially catastrophic events,” according to prize-winning investigative reporting. …

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As a restaurateur with two businesses listed on TripAdvisor, we noticed a change when Priceline bought TripAdvisor. Apart from the modernised interface, the slight colour change and a few other updates, the biggest change I noticed as a business owner was the introduction of paid-for listings.

It’s a clear revenue grab by the behemoth that separates regular listings from premium advertisers, who can now choose their preferred review and preferred photos to be seen by visitors to the site. In essence, the introduction of a 2-tier model which directly promotes paying businesses over everybody else. …

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Many of us share some dim apprehension that the world is flying out of control, that the centre cannot hold. Raging wildfires, once-in-1,000-year storms, and lethal heatwaves have become fixtures of the evening news-and all this after the planet has warmed by less than 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures. But here’s where it gets really scary.

If humanity burns through all its fossil fuel reserves, there is the potential to warm the planet by perhaps more than 10 degrees Celsius and raise sea levels by hundreds of feet. This is a warming spike comparable in magnitude to that so far measured for the End-Permian mass extinction. If the worst-case scenarios come to pass, today’s modestly menacing ocean-climate system will seem quaint. Even warming to half of that amount would create a planet that would have nothing to do with the one on which humans evolved, or on which civilisation has been built. …


Edward Terry

Restaurateur. Writer. @EdwardTerry.

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