Monday, July 30, 2012

"Get skinnier than all your friends"

Update 30 July 12:54: I'm not alone. Found articles on the Daily Mail and HuffPo that contain quotes from medical professionals the book quite concerning. And an article on ParentDish that says the book itself contains good and sensible advice.  Oh, and Venice A Fulton's real name is actually Paul.

I haven't blogged in a while, which is odd considering I've had so much going on.  But something has got me so incensed, I had to write about it.  And it's nothing to do with radio, interactive media, or campervans - just an advert I keep passing on my walk to the tube, which makes me furious every time it catches my eye.

The poster is for a book called "6 Weeks to OMG" by Venice A Fulton.  This is the poster for it, which I have presumed is showing the cover of the book.  The phrase that offends me is "Get skinnier than all your friends".

Admittedly, I'm not target market, and by way of a disclaimer, I'm generally fairly sceptical about diet books, and the dieting industry in general.  But I recognise that being fit is a good thing, and that being fat can be a bad thing, indeed a dangerous thing.  But I'm gob-smacked that a book cover and a marketing campaign in 2012 would encourage you to aim to "get skinnier than all your friends".

It goes against every positive body-image message I've ever heard.  Shouldn't dieting be about health and personal well-being?  About having a target healthy weight/BMI/body fat percentage, aiming for it, then maintaining it?  Not about comparing yourself to other people, and not about being skinnier than those people regardless.

Of course, we all compare ourselves to other people, whether it be celebrities or our own friends. This strapline taps into those personal insecurities, and reinforces them in 4-inch high letters.  Imagine I'm a woman (and let's not get technical; this is targeted at women) who is friends with a whole bunch of size 8 women.  This strapline is encouraging me to get to size 6.  What if one of them gets to size 6 before me?  Then surely I have to get to size 4?  Down that route I suspect huge body-insecurity and eating disorders lie.

Since the poster also encourages me to engage with Venice Fulton on Twitter, I challenged him and Penguin Books to explain the strapline and stand by it.  Venice Fulton would not (Penguin have not replied as of yet).  He did encourage me to read the book, and insisted that within it I would find positive, healthy messages, and he asserted that he felt weight-loss is entirely personal.  Which makes the strapline even more baffling.  I persisted, and asked him three times if he stood by the statement that it was acceptable to aim to "get skinnier than all your friends".  He would not stand by the statement, but suggested that if the poster offended me so much, I should "blink" to avoid seeing it.
"In the book it makes a HUGE point of comparing yourself to yourself, which is psychologically speaking, very healthy
"The toughest thing is to get people to open a book in an era where most are bored. It is a solid read, despite the hype. The title doesn't have 'diet' in it, because it's not one. There's no ! after the OMG, and there are no food recipes in it. As for the subtitle, I didn't choose it. It was chosen by a random group of 20 who preferred it to other subtitles. 'Get healthier' didn't work." (conversation with @hawkida)
"#6weeksToOMG (the book itself) completely answers ALL questions that the poster may have excited in the viewer's imagination! The only shame is to assume so much from so little. I stand by the book you admitted you haven't read.  Read the book and then see if it's likely to leave you, or anyone, offended. And if the poster is really a big issue: BLINK!"
Quotes from Venice A Fulton, on Twitter.  
Read the full conversation on Storify.
So what is happening here?  On the face of it, it would seem an author has written a book he believes to present a responsible approach to weight-loss (I don't know, I haven't read it), but with a subtitle/strapline that does not represent the message of the book, and which he is unwilling to standby.  The strapline is certainly provocative, and it has stuck in my mind, so perhaps it works.  But in someone else's mind, could it be dangerous?  Could it reinforce the idea that dieting is a competition, with goals determined by other people's weights?  I'm not an expert, but Venice Fulton apparently is, and he is unwilling to standby the strapline on his book and argue in its favour.  So I don't have anything to go on here.

I shall just have to "blink".

Saturday, August 27, 2011

How to fit a dishwasher

  1. Remove freezer from spot in kitchen (moving it down the cellar) to free up spot for dishwasher.
  2. Stare at plumbing under sink for half a day, carefully listing all the parts you'd need, then go to shops and buy everything you need in one go.
  3. Get home and start job.  Realise you haven't bought everything you need, and make 90min round trip to shop for one more £2 part.
  4. Realise that dishwasher is 2cm wider than the space it should go in. Shit.
  5. Decide you need to move upright piece of board, in order to expand the space. Realise that said board is screwed to wall, glued to floor, and notched into skirting board.  Sweat a lot, as you change these things.
  6. Finally, slot dishwasher into place.  Dishwasher sticks out by 2cm.  Shit.  Realise those 2cm are the depth of the plug and socket behind the dishwasher.  They're going to have to go.
  7. Determine which fuse is for kitchen sockets (of course, realise it's the final one you try)
  8. Remove socket from wall, safely taping up cables left behind (it's a spur, so no joining required).
  9. Run dishwasher and washing maching flexes to a different socket, drilling hole in aforementioned upright board to facilitate. 
  10. Realise washing machine flex has been extended using bare terminal block. Rewire (using junction box thankfully found in cellar).
  11. Re-fit dishwasher, and washing machine.  Hurrah, everything fits. 
  12. Do test run of dishwasher.  It will leak water on floor, but you'll just need to tighten a few things.
  13. Mop up.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Bush demolition

It started out as a massive ivy bush, which fell over in a storm
After much wrestling with twigs, there was then the extraction of a massive root
Then there was cleaning up a bit, and laying down a few railway sleepers discovered at the bottom of the garden
Then add a bamboo screen, and a few paving slabs
And now we've got a mini patio for pots and a barbecue.  Lovely.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

I made a table!

Warning - this blog post is nerdy, and not particularly interesting. But I've spent weeks of brain power on this seemingly simple project, so I thought I'd write it all down.

We've got a spare room in our house which my girlfriend decided from an early date would be our Craft Room. The main thing you need in a craft room is lots of surface space, but we also want the room to be versatile - for example, accommodate a put-up bed from time to time. So I set about designing a table that you could stow away.

The table, on the wallThe top fixingThe bottom fixing, with table downCorner plate, over tee nut
I'd tackled this engineering task before, in the camper van, and opted for a hinged table which folded download, with a fold-up leg. I thought about this for the craft room, but decided against it. The main reason is that I would need to hinge it upward instead of downward, meaning leaning on the table would put a constant strain on the hinge.

So instead, I opted for a table top that you entirely remove from its legs, and slide into a housing on the wall. The table top is a pre-made piece of pine furniture board, and the fixings on the wall are made from timber as well. When you set the table up, you lay it on the bottom fixing, and drop a couple of loose long bolts in to two holes, to hold (but not fasten) the table in place.

The trickier part of the job was finding screw-in table legs. I knew these would be hard to find, because I also looked during the campervan job. All of the table leg systems out there are for permanent fixing. I did manage to find a screw-in system from a small manufacturer called EES, but their legs were £20 each which I thought was too much.

Looking to make my own, what I really wanted to buy was a pair of these clinch nut plates, but nobody in the UK seems to sell them. Instead I made my own, using these simpler pronged tee nuts which you hammer into the underside of the table, and a pair of metal plates I had in my junk box to stop them popping out. I opted for two cheap £2 banister spindles for legs, and screwed these hanger bolts in to them (worth saying only one place I could find hanger bolts after an extensive search - thanks Woodfit).

There you go, one temporary table. We might even put a picture on the underside, so it looks nice on the wall.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

HD Sound - is there much point?

A number of radio companies (notably Absolute Radio, and the BBC, who I work for) have started experimenting with programmes being available in "HD Sound". This sounds really exciting! Ever the early adopter, I decided to look into this a bit more to see if there was something my area (Radio 1) was missing out on. I was disappointed.

I don't know what I was expecting - something that would blow me away, I guess, like my HDTV does every time I switch from channel 101 to channel 143 and notice the difference between BBC1 and BBC1HD. And maybe that's the wider problem here - I'm not as much of an audio fidelity snob as I am a picture quality snob.  I can't hear much difference above a 192kbps MP3, and I know lots of people can.  That notwithstanding, I still expected more excitement.

HD Sound offers better quality sound (of course), but really that just means higher bit rates on digital files (whether that be via higher MP3 rates like the BBC, or the FLAC lossless codec like Absolute). And that's the big difference point with HDTV, which is high quality distribution, but it's also a fundamental change in the production of content as well - better cameras, better sets, lossless editing, etc etc. An HD TV channel is encoded in a higher bit rate yes, but its content is also (sometimes) made in HD as well.

In the most part, sound production has been high quality and digital for decades, with not a lot of room for further improvement.  Add to this the fact we've had a high quality distribution medium in our lives for years already (my Dad got his first CD player when I was 5), and digital distribution is just playing catchup; HD Sound seems to be an umbrella term for various attempts to reach CD quality on the web.

Which brings me to my final point of difference. HDTV is on my TV, just like old TV was. I can easily compare the difference, which adds to the impression it makes. HD Sound or HD Radio is not radio at all - it's a file that you download on your computer. If you have to consume it in that way, why not just stream the uncompressed WAV files? In this world of ubiquitous high speed Internet, what difference does a few hundred megabytes really make?

Calling "higher quality than radio" versions of programmes "HD Sound" is perhaps useful for marketing, because it does instantly make you think of higher quality. But audience members expecting as awesome an experience as they get with their HDTVs are probably going to be massively underwhelmed.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Inane commentary over Back To The Future

I watched Back To The Future the other day, and realised I think the same thoughts every time I see it (and that must be at least 20 times).  So I decided to tweet my inane thoughts.  Here they are.  Watch BTTF and read these along with it.

  • I will now provide inane commentary over Back To The Future on Blu-Ray
  • Surely the experiment at Twin Pines Mall was not Doc's VERY first experiment? He went to all that effort without doing small scale trial?
  • The camper van the Libyans chase Marty in is almost identical to my camper van. There's no way it can do 70 on the flat, let alone 90
  • The plutonium is a very very clever plot point. Perhaps the cleverest. Think about all the things that wouldn't have happened without it...
  • No plutonium, no radiation suits, no bullet proof vest underneath, no denouement. (You could easily get 1.21GW from a local power station)
  • Is it acceptable to rip pages out of phone books in cafes? Also, Marty buys 1955 coffee with 1985 coins. Wouldn't be possible in the UK!
  • Michael J Fox was 24 playing 16. In the other two films he was 28 playing 16. At what point does a short guy say "that's just patronising"?
  • In 1955 lorraine's dad says "who the hell is John F Kennedy?". JFK was elected to congress in 47 and senate in 53, so was prob quite famous
  • (ok so 1.21GW is quite a lot to get from a power station... Just read that all of Belgium's power stations only generate 1.01GW)
  • Why don't we harness and store the electricity from lightening storms? Must be possible, surely?
  • The average peak power output of a single lightning stroke is actually about 1000 Gigawatts - surprised the flux capacitor didn't blow!
  • Could 1985 Walkmans with foam wire headphones really play loud enough to make you feel that level of pain? (Eddie van Halen pain!)
  • Blu-Ray is very unforgiving to the very obvious stunt doubles in the skateboard/car chase set piece. Check out "Biff" driving in particular!
  • Did the lightning strike the clock tower at precisely 22:04:00? Are you sure? It's a rather hokey old clock with no second hand...
  • Christopher Lloyd is a master of comic timing and facial expression.
  • I always remember the Dance section of this film so well. Aged six, I had a mini-comic, which came free with Shreddies. It was part 5 of 6.
  • You caused $300 damage to my car you son of a bitch, and now I'm gonna take it out of your ass #snigger
  • After George decks Biff, I always look for the "I think he took his wallet" guy in the gathering crowd.
  • That ginger dork that cuts in when they're dancing, he's got a bloody maniacal laugh!
  • Hey Chuck, it's your cousin Marvin Berry. You know that new sound you're looking for? Well listen to THIS, then plagiarise it word for word!
  • Oh but actually Chuck, you've missed all the good bit and now he's just going a bit mental on guitar. It's ok, I can remember most of it.
  • Do you think their memories would be so addled over 20 years that they'd not notice their son growing to resemble the guy who set them up?
  • He has to hit that cable the split second the lightning strikes! Why not use a long tether cable, to give him more of a margin of error?
  • 10 minutes? You're in a time machine, you've got all the time you want, but you're only setting the clock back 10 minutes? Gaagh!
  • Bring Jennifer along, this concerns her too. When the actress decides she doesn't want to be in the sequel, we'll just recast her
  • Where we're going we don't need Rrrroooads
  • And that concludes my commentary of Back To The Future which, all evidence to the contrary, is one of my favourite movies of all time.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Smerins on 6Music part three

Having accepted the Christmas Challenge from Nemone on 6Music's, George appeared on the show last week to introduce the results. I love that Nemone calls him Mr Smerins all the way through, and I also love that the band are the official title of the episode in BBC /programmes (as a guy who updates these all the time, that's a strange little personal thrill).

And don't forget to get your free copy of Walking In The Air from their website, and watch the making-of video.