Infernal machine!

That infernal rowing machine has got it in for me!  It wants me off and no doubt about it.  Lazy machine doesn’t want to be rowed! When cranking the resistance up to life-threatening levels for prolonged periods doesn’t work it then resorts to demoralisation tactics by telling me how unfit I am.  Apparently I could smear myself with electro-conductive goop (steady!) so that the heart-rate monitoring device would work better, but if I did that I’m sure the machine would contrive to connect me to the mains!  Perhaps I’ll threaten to replace it with a skipping rope – see how it likes that!

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Restaurant Rage?

I need to calibrate my behaviour – is it reasonable to ask my friends?  Will they tell me straight?

My parents are returning to Australia tomorrow and they wanted to take me, Katie and the kids to dinner before they went.  The kids are still small – 5 years, 3 1/2 years  and 16 months – so it was never going to be easy.  We though the early sitting at the local gastro-pub would be OK so we all got there at 6:30.  It wasn’t busy – just one other table occupied when we arrived and we ordered and had some drinks and thinks were good.  Around the time the kids were getting bored food arrived and things were OK for a bit longer.

After eating for a bit, however, the kids did get bored and Jemima, being very little, was also tired and decided that a small tantrum was needed.  So we tried to deal with this and then the boys needed the toilet.  Katie dealt with that and Jemima calmed down a bit and then the waitress tells us that Jemima’s noise is disturbing the other diners.  Some more have arrived by now as it’s getting on towards 7:30.   Apparently someone has made a complaint.

I ask the waitress what she suggests we should do?  I’m a bit angry with this situation – a 1 1/2 year old can’t be reasoned with, you can only try to comfort or change the environment or work out what will help them calm down.  The other diners had a choice when they saw kids in the dining room (the other table that was occupied when we arrived also had children but a little older).  I feel that I want to know who has complained so I can talk to them directly and ask them perhaps what they think we should do – clearly the point of the complaint is just to try to make the noise go away but that’s either clueless about children or just plain intolerant.  Anyway the waitress is a bit clueless and looks blank so I ask if she is saying that we should leave (we are still waiting for our deserts to arrive – not the most brisk service).  She then makes a big blunder.  She says, yes, that is perhaps what she is saying.  I tell her that it should probably be her manager that tells us that but before anything like that can happen the family is getting their things and preparing to go.  This, to me, is just not on but clearly we are now leaving the pub.  So I raise my voice enough to be heard and tell the whole dining room what has happened – that someone has made a complaint about my daughter and that we have been asked to leave and I angrily ask what sort of people they are?!!  I didn’t really hold back any of my contempt for the complainers I suppose.

As we leave the dining room the manager finally arrives and we have a discussion about whose behaviour was least acceptable – theirs or mine.

I still think, though, that it had to be done.  I really wanted to confront the people who made the complaint – to address them directly and have them address me directly if they had the courage.  I wanted the rest of the dining room to understand the culture they were dining in and share my disgust at a culture that doesn’t tolerate the way that children will behave.

So was it reasonable behaviour on my part?  Hard to say unless you were there I guess but Katie thinks I was a bit OTT.

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Guts and Gonads

It finally went too far … I saw some sort of mission on the wall of a school yesterday that had the ambition of “winning the hearts and minds” of the students.  It means nothing if they haven’t won the viscera – they’ve got to win the guts and gonads as well!

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BMI deceptions

We just got a letter from Islington NHS saying that Jed is overweight!  How can that be – Jed at nearly 5 years old is lean and fit.  There’s barely any fat on him at all.

Apparently this wonderful news is the result of the National Child Measurement Programme whose mission seems to be to use simplistic tools to convince people to be more healthy.  A quick search online led me to this survey from the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston that shows that the relying on BMI to determine whether someone has unhealthy levels of body fat appears to be wrong around 1/6 – 1/4 of the time.

I’d heard that muscle is more dense than fat – it turns out muscle is about 18% more dense than fat and so someone who has bigger muscles could well be in the “overweight” BMI range.  There are other, more accurate ways to determine the levels of body fat: waist-to-hip ratio, skin-fold thickness measurements, and weighing in water (hydrodensiometry) are just a few.  This last one is my favourite – I think a better heuristic than BMI is buoyancy.  If it’s hard to stay afloat you’re probably OK.

The worst thing about the whole programme is the large-scale misuse and miscommunication of science.  The BMI is clearly a flawed measure but we’re being told the gospel-truth according to science that Jed is overweight.  It’s clear that he’s not and it seems likely that up to a quarter of these reported results are wrong.  This kind of bad science just undermines the credibility of all science reporting and people will just ignore it.

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Bad Sounds!

It’s incredible that even in the Barbican Hall they amplify things according to their capability and not the requirements of the audience or the music.

It was a session from a series called “Reverberations: The influence of Steve Reich”. First piece I really enjoyed – Clapping Music with Reich himself as one of the performers. From then on, with mostly orchestral pieces, the sound-stage was really damaged by the amplification and the levels were at times painful. The Barbican has a good acoustic – there’s really no need. Might as well just buy the recordings.


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