Saturday, 27 April 2019

Going the distance - or not.

With the London marathon taking place tomorrow, this story seems the most appropriate to look at today.

Shock horror, it seems that not all fitness trackers can accurately monitor the distance their wearers are running, according to a study reported on the BBC news website.

Quite apart from the difference in stride length for individual wearers - and I really hope they took that into account - trying to monitor the distance on a treadmill as opposed to via GPS seems distinctly risky, as there is no guarantee that the treadmill is entirely accurate.

Even using GPS may not be infallible - the first 5k Race for Life I took part in was apparently only 4.8km, according to the GPS on Runkeeper. I like to think that the organisers wouldn't have varied it by that much, and it certainly felt like at least 5km, if not longer!

In the end, does it really matter that much? I can't help thinking that the important thing from a fitness point of view is probably the time spent raising one's heart rate, and if your tracker doesn't have a heart rate monitor, then it probably does have a time-elapsed tracker. Worst case scenario, you can always look at your watch to see how long you've been out running/cycling/skipping....

And of course, go Viv Frost! Here's the link to her JustGiving page in case you want to sponsor her.

Monday, 22 April 2019

My own Easter Message

The news from Sri Lanka is both shocking and saddening. The death toll as I type is set at 290, but so many were injured, I won't be surprised if it rises even further.

Bombing churches on Easter Sunday was always going to have a devastating effect. Devout Christians were clearly being targeted. I thought the trouble with the Tamil Tigers had been settled, so looked at Wikipedia to see if I had been mistaken. I hadn't.

However, what I did see was a report of violent attacks last year on Muslims in Sri Lanka by Buddhists. Buddhists are the majority in Sri Lanka and, although there is no state religion, Buddhism officially occupies a special place.

In recent months, there have also been shootings at synagogues and mosques. I am not a fan of organised religions - generally I see them as part of the patriarchy, trying to keep the little people in order - but I'm also not a fan of killing those little people.

Most religions promote a peaceful way of life - I'm thinking of the moderate branches here, not the extremists that have carried out these recent attacks. There was a meme a couple of days ago on Facebook (I can't find it now, naturally!) drawing attention to all the different religious perpetrators of  mass attacks on those of other religions. It summarised it with "Religion is not the problem; violence is the problem."

I'd really like to believe that. But in these days of increasing polarisation, it seems that religions are also falling foul of the same issue, and it is the silent, moderate, majority that are suffering, while the strident minority push for ever more drastic steps to achieve dominance.

Easter is supposed to be a time of new life, Passover celebrates continuing life. For far too many in Sri Lanka this year, that message has been subverted. The silence needs to change.

Sunday, 14 April 2019

When a compromise isn't really that at all

It seems Theresa May is finding it so hard to get the support she needs for her 'deal' from her own party that she is negotiating with Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party.

I should find the idea of cross-party talks comforting. The idea suggests compromise, something not too extreme in either direction. The coalition government should have managed this (except the LibDems gave away too much in the first place) though we were not aware at the time of just how extreme the Tories would have liked to have been.

But a compromise that would be acceptable to a majority on this particular issue? It seems unlikely. What is even more irksome is that they still seem to be debating the details of a deal for exiting the E.U. They just don't seem to understand that the other 27 countries need to agree with the details and if any of them don't, then it's back to no deal or no Brexit.

Strength is in numbers. The E.U. was set up in such a way as to make it hard for any country to leave without losing out, and there are 27 other countries there to make sure that happens. If we stay in, there are 28 countries in a negotiating bloc, whether for economic/trade deals or for diplomatic stands. That's a pretty large bloc. And the little information emerging now about the details should encourage many leave voters to wonder if they voted the right way, and to consider that another referendum would at the very least be considerably more informed.

Friday, 5 April 2019

A Punishment of Biblical Proportions

The news broke yesterday that the Sultan of Brunei is implementing a number of Sharia law-based punishments, including (but not limited to) stoning to death for homosexuality.

Brunei is not the only country with a death penalty for homosexuality. It joins a list that includes Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, parts of Nigeria, parts of Somalia, parts of Syria and parts of Iraq, though it is unclear how exactly that death penalty may be administered. Homosexuality is illegal in many other countries but 'only' punished with a jail sentence, countries that include many members of the British Commonwealth.

In Europe, the major initiative against homosexuals was instigated by the Roman Catholic Church in the 13th century, though of course it had been forbidden in the Bible (collated by Roman Catholic Clergy in the 6th and 7th century) since the time of Leviticus. Even in Leviticus, however, it is marked as being merely 'detestable' (NIV) - there is no mention of a death penalty.

In the UK, good old Henry VIII oversaw the criminalisation of sodomy in 1533, punishable by hanging, a punishment that was only repealed in 1861. Nothing to be proud of, indeed, but there is a vast difference between hanging and stoning to death.

A number of celebrities, most notably Ellen de Generes and George Clooney, have called for a boycott of hotels in the Dorchester Collection, a group owned ultimately by the extraordinarily wealthy Sultan of Brunei. (The list is here, if you want to know.) But boycotting these hotels - which is not an option for most of us as we couldn't afford to go there in the first place - only punishes the immediate employees rather than their employer, who can probably afford to sell a luxury hotel or two off cheap like last year's Monopoly pieces.

How to respond, then, to the announcement from Brunei? I don't know what the answer is. But it seems terribly sad, at a time when Saudi Arabia is finally allowing a small element of the twentieth century into its ranks with women drivers, that Brunei thinks it appropriate to lurch back to the standards of two millennia ago.