May 292016
 

Back in July 2014, whilst on a day trip to Whitby, I ate at the Angel Wetherspoons’ pub. I sent this tweet.

Wetherspoons responded by pulling the CCTV of our meal and interviewing the waitress. They indicated that the portion size was within one standard deviation of the mean of their standard so they were content with the size of the portion. They accounted for my disapproval with the observation that I had been eating for precisely 2 minutes and 17 seconds when I took the photo, and stated that the waitress had testified that I had not indicated any displeasure to her at the time of the meal.

I was impressed with this commitment to customer satisfaction, so when I attended The Corryvreckan (Wetherspoons’ pub in Oban) whilst on holiday last week, I decided to support their analysis with the provision of data from another sample. This is therefore a comparative study of the size of Wetherspoons’ Steak and Kidney pudding meal.

meal diameter The diameter of the meal is approximately 18cm, on a patterned plate of approximately 25cm. The surface area of a plate of diameter d is approximately (πd2)/4, or in this case 490cm2. Of that, approximately 250cm2 was obscured by food or by the gravy pot, that being an occlusion of approximately 51% of the plate. This appears to be roughly equivalent to that of Whitby in 2014; though I note that the practice of providing a gravy boat may give the impression of more food than previously.
 The chips appear to be distributed on the plate in a pseudo-random distribution. The average depth of food on the plate is therefore difficult to estimate, but is perhaps a mean of 1 or 2 centimetres from the deepest point.  chup thickness
 pie diameter 2  The pudding varies in diameter between 7cm at its “base” (the top in this picture) to 10cm at its “top” (the bottom in this picture.) The pudding is approximately 6cm in height. Using the reasonable approximation of a cylinder of diameter 8.5cm, its volume can therefore be approximated using the formula volume=(πd2h)/4=340cm3. The density of cooked ground beef is approximately 1.03gcm-3, essentially indistinguishable from the density of distilled water at standard temperature and pressure (1gcm-3), so I estimate the mass of the pudding is approximately 340g. Comparative research of other single portion steak and kidney pies reveals that this is within an order of magnitude of expectation.
 pie height  pie diameter
 There were precisely 30 chips, varying in length between 2cm and 12cm, with a median length of perhaps 8cm. There was therefore approximately 2.4m of chip on the plate.  chip length
 chip thickness  The average thickness of each chip was 0.64mm. Given the presence of some outliers with tapered ends, I am estimating the total volume of the chips on the plate as being 240cm x 0.6cm x 0.6cm or 86.4cm3. Fried potatoes have a density of 449Kg/m3, or approximately 0.5gcm-3, so I estimate the total mass of chips to be approximately 43g.

Research indicates that the average portion of cooked chips is 200g, and that a few chips either way can make large cost differences. I frankly suspect some scrimping here.

 There were 169 peas. They averaged 0.45cm in diameter. The volume of a sphere of diameter d is (πd3)/6, so each pea measured approximately 0.047cm3. The total peaage was therefore approximately 8cm3.

The NHS states that the “five a day” portions of veg can include “three heaped tablespoons of cooked vegetables”. A heaped tablespoon is 30cm3. This is therefore about a third of a portion of peas on that plate.

The density of cooked peas is 0.68gcm-3. The mass of peas was therefore approximately 5.5g.

 peas
 pie level  The gravy boat is a new addition since 2014. The depth of the gravy is approximately 3.5cm.

The average individual portion of gravy is approximately 50cm3.  For the gravy boat to hold that amount, it would have to have a surface area of perhaps 14cm2. I estimate that the surface area of this gravy portion exceeds this and therefore we are on the up.

But not all the gravy got eaten, as I was not furnished with a spoon.

 The total mass of the pudding, the peas and the chips was therefore approximately 390g.

The average eating rate varies substantially by individual, food type and circumstances but is approximately 100g per minute. This meal would therefore take the average person approximately 4 minutes to eat.

Of course, because I was being sarcastic and pissing about with a camera and a ruler, it took me substantially longer.

 tally
  drinkheight  My blackcurrant and soda was approximately 11cm in height and the glass was approximately 5.5cm in diameter. Its volume = (πd2h)/4 = 260ml, or just less than half an imperial pint.
 But, of course, some of that was taken up by ice cubes. There were 5, with an average size of 1.5cm. The total volume of ice was therefore 5 x 1.5 x 1.5 x 1.5 = approximately 17ml.

In approximately half of cases, restaurant ice has over 1,000 colliform bacteria per cube (i.e. faecal bacteria) and is thus more contaminated than toilet water.

On average, there was therefore probably 2,500 poo-based bacteria in the ice cubes in that glass.

 ice cube size
 receipt length  The receipt varied from 19cm in length to 20.5cm, at a width of 8cm. The total surface area of the receipt was therefore 164cm2. At an assumed weight of 58gm-2, the paper weighed approximately 9mg – or approximately a billionth of the mass of this European oak tree.

Conclusion

I hope that this comparative study of the dimensional composition of my meal is to the exacting standards of Wetherspoons and contributes to their body of statistical analysis of their meal – and I look forward to their prompt analysis as to whether their Oban staff complied with Wetherspoons’ evil corporate penny-pinching control-freak bollocks.

Slimming World Syn values of Diet Chef foods

 Miscellany  Comments Off on Slimming World Syn values of Diet Chef foods
Feb 262016
 

I am a fat whatsit and really need to lose weight. I lost a lot on Slimming World a few years ago, then did Diet Chef for a while, now I’m back on Slimming World again (there’s more choice and it’s more sustainable long-term.) So I have Diet Chef stock in the cupboard but I’m on Slimming World. Slimming World syns online and so on don’t list Diet Chef foods, so I’ve shoved the various Diet Chef foods in my cupboard through the Slimming World online syns calculator, with appropriate selection of any free food content. I thought this might prove vaguely useful to somebody else, hence this departure from my normal content on my blog.
I don’t guarantee it to be error free, the recipe may change, it’s not all the Diet Chef foods (just the ones I could stomach), don’t leave your grandma out in a gale and always make sure to shut the firebox and turn the blower on when entering a tunnel, or at the very least open the regulator all the way.

Main Meals

Meal Syns
Mild Chicken Tikka Massala
Lasagne
Sweet and Sour Chicken 6
Chicken in Black Bean Sauce
Chicken Jalfrezi
Thai Red Chicken Curry
Vegetable Curry
Macaroni Cheese 5
Sausages and Onion Gravy

Lunches

Meal Syns
Cream of Tomato Soup
Mushroom Soup
Pea and Ham Soup Free
Curried Parsnip Soup 4
Sweet Potato & Coconut Soup
Oxtail Soup 3
Creamy Pesto Pasta Pot ½
Spiced Bulgar Wheat & Couscous Pot Free
Lemon & Herb Bulgar Wheat & Couscous Pot ½
Tomato & Herb Bulgar Wheat & Couscous Pot ½
Tomato, Red Pepper & Cheese Pasta Pot Free
Vanilla Flavour Protein Bar 11½
Chocolate Flavour Protein Bar 11½
Peanut Flavour Protein Bar 11½

Breakfasts

I guess it’s up to you if you count any of these as “own brand” Healthy Bs, though they are slightly bigger at 40g.

Meal Syns
Fruit and Oat Muesli
Luxuri Muesli
Chocolate Granola 10
Treacle & Pecan Granola 10
Fruit & Oat Soft Cookie 10
Chocolate Soft Cookie 10
Original Muesli Bar 10
Chocolate Chip Muesli Bar

Snacks

Snack Syns
Fruit & Spice Oat Buiscuits 4
Stem Ginger Oat Buiscuits
Dark Chocolate Chip Oat Buiscuits
Mixed Berry Oat Buiscuits
Cranberry Protein Bar 30g 6
Strawbery & Apple Bar 2
Chocolate Bar 5

Steer Clear of Teleflorist.co.uk / “Eflorist” / “Euroflorist” – they can’t be trusted.

 Miscellany  Comments Off on Steer Clear of Teleflorist.co.uk / “Eflorist” / “Euroflorist” – they can’t be trusted.
Jan 102016
 
BOU14_97_aR CHO102 DE12BQTSF01R flowers

I have just successfully sued TelefloristEflorist / Euroflorist after they let me down badly and didn’t give a stuff.

We had a family celebration holiday at the frankly wonderful Calvert Trust Kielder. On Sunday, the day before we traveled, I decided to order some flowers and chocolates to be in the room for when my family arrives on the Monday. I had a problem: Calvert Trust Kielder is so remote that most companies don’t do same or next day flower delivery – so I shopped around to find one that did. I settled on Teleflorists, who accepted my order for next day delivery without problems. I ordered a “Coral Bouquet” plus “Milk Chocolate 9s” and paid £40.95 including next day delivery.

All looks rather lovely, I thought; and all sorted so easily!.

Till I got an email the next day, sent at 3:23pm: “We are sorry but despite our best efforts we have not been able to find a florist who can deliver your order.” Well that’s just great, isn’t it. “We would like to offer you a courier delivered item called Pink Lady and also include a vase. This would be sent on the next available delivery date, which is Tuesday. … Kindly reply by 4pm to ensure we can deliver on the next available delivery date.” They gave me 37 minutes notice to respond if I wanted them to arrive the day after they should originally have done. They were lucky to catch me at all: it came through on my mobile just before I lost signal. I couldn’t see the “pink lady” (ooh-er, missus) as I didn’t have enough mobile connection to download a picture, so they emailed me at 4pm to say they’d decided to order it anyway without my say-so. I can see now, however, what they should look like – “A heartwarming bouquet of cerise Gerberas, pink Roses and purple Alstroemeria.

We arrived on the Monday, but the flowers didn’t. They didn’t arrive on the Tuesday, either. Eventually, after much chasing, they turned up on the Wednesday. (The delivery label indicated that they hadn’t even been posted until the Tuesday.)

Let’s check the flowers I ordered, then the flowers I blindly accepted to be delivered a day later, then the actual flowers that arrived a day after that (on day three of the four-day holiday.)

BOU14_97_aR CHO102 DE12BQTSF01R flowers
“D day” (no-show)… A day late (no-show)… Two days late.
And no chocolates!

Yeah, thanks Teleflorist, that was so worth waiting the extra two days for. That truly looks like “a heartwarming bouquet of cerise Gerberas, pink Roses and purple Alstroemeria.

I complained (unusual for me!)

My remaining issues are that you took an order for delivery on a date what you knew you couldn’t make, that you didn’t tell me that until mid afternoon on the supposed day of delivery, that you only contacted me by email and gave me a very limited period to respond, that you promised that delivery would occur on the next day, that in fact you didn’t arrange for delivery until the day after that, that you failed to keep me updated about the delays, and that the flowers were not of a satisfactory standard when they did arrive. Instead of this being a nice surprise and an asset to (our family) celebrations, it has become a drag and a disappointment.

Their response?

Having reviewed the photograph you have been kind enough to provide, we’re pleased to see that these flowers are within our expectations, please ensure the water is changed and the vase is clean. This will serve to maximise the life of the flowers and mean more enjoyment.

Yeah, how unfair of me, I shouldn’t be so demanding of the quality of my flowers, what they sent me is clearly nearly as good as the photo. Silly me.

They lied in response to my TrustPilot review, (“a member of our customer service team has been in contact and this has now been resolved”) then they failed to respond to any further correspondence or any other elements of my complaint.

So I sued them. They didn’t even respond to legal action on time, so I was awaiting default judgment; but today, I received their admission – they “admit the full amount claimed” – and a full refund by cheque.

They claim to have signed their form on the last day they could legally have responded to my case (29th December) (yeah right, 11 days have gone by, even at peak times Royal Mail aren’t that slow) so I’m now applying for a judgment with interest, to make sure they end up on the register of adverse County Court judgments for the next six years.

What have I learned from this? Basically:

Do NOT use Eflorist / Teleflorist / Euroflorist.

They are incompetent, they don’t give a stuff and they lie.

On the nature of party balloons and catheters

 Miscellany  Comments Off on On the nature of party balloons and catheters
Dec 112015
 

When you deflate a balloon it never goes back to its original shape.

party-balloons-background_zps727ce43f copy

This isn’t usually a problem. But it is in this context.

cathetersThose are silicone Foley catheters, if you are wondering. I’ve got a hole through my abdomen into my bladder, into which the above gets pushed (with medical lubrication) and is held in place by inflating the balloon. This is the mechanism by which I pass water – a suprapubic catheter. The other end gets attached to a leg bag, which is a urine collection device; an external, plastic bladder if you will.

441(This gives the general idea. I recommend against Googling for photos, as many are a bit graphic. Oh. My. God.)

The catheter goes through a sinus, that is a skin tube through my layers of blubber and into my bladder. It’s a few centimetres long and it forms itself size-wise to the catheter. It has healed completely, a bit like a body piercing, as it were.

This is all fine and dandy except that every so often the catheter needs changing; over ten weeks or so the balloon goes down a bit, the catheter gets a bit mucky and coated and the silicon in the catheter starts to go funny. So the balloon is deflated, in theory reducing the tube to its original shape so it can be pulled out the same way it went in.

In. Theory.

Those blooming wrinkles. They are a right blooming pain. No matter how slowly you go, how careful you are, getting those wrinkles through the hole in the bladder wall, and through that skin tunnel, always knacks. The tunnel just isn’t made for that..

I usually try to do it with ibuprofen and cocodamol, and with the aid of some local anaesthetic in the lubricant. It’s still horrific though. Last night I tried getting drunk. That helped a lot! – a great painkiller, it made sure the new tube was well flushed, and I can barely remember it.

But there has to be a better solution, doesn’t there? Surely it isn’t beyond the ability of material science to create a catheter in which the balloon completely deflates back to where it was? I know there are lots of other things to consider as well – resistant to infections etc. – but even so.

Oh, whilst you’re at it, catheter manufacturers, how’s about supplying leg urine bags WITHOUT leaving the tap open, and WITH the end pushed on properly? (I think they must want to give unsuspecting people smelly wet sock syndrome.)

Yeah, thank you for that Conveen, I'm sure it's very funny to give inattentive people urine-ensoaked socks and trousers...

Yeah, thank you for that Coloplast, I’m sure it’s very funny to give inattentive people urine-soaked socks and trousers…

The Great North Run for the Calvert Trust Kielder

 Miscellany  Comments Off on The Great North Run for the Calvert Trust Kielder
Jun 022015
 

Many will know that I generally don’t like disability charities, in particular Leonard Cheshire Disability, as you may guess from various pages on my blog. The big disability charities institutionalise us, take our voice, consume our resources and use our language whilst oppressing us. As disabled people, we get portrayed as powerless objects of pity, charity recipients with no rights – the constant refrains being “Rights Not Charity” and “Piss On Pity“.

charities03-ungratefulCartoon courtesy of the excellent Crippen

So many will be surprised that I am fundraising for a disability charity.

The difference is that it’s the Calvert Trust Kielder, and they are…. different. Amazingly, wonderfully different. Of course, as a disability charity they have to do some of the supercrip” publicity, the “make a difference to some disadvantaged person’s life” and so on which grates so terribly; sadly this is necessary for funding. But in reality these are people who do their utmost to make stays with them as comfortable, entertaining and (should guests want it) challenging as possible, with the minimum of fuss. Nothing is too much effort for them.

end

People who know me will know that because I’m a gobby git life can be difficult for me, particularly where I live. I have been victimised so many times, in so many ways, both overt and covert, for daring to challenge organisations. I have had intense mental health crises, faced eviction, big safeguarding investigations etc. etc. etc. Throughout all this, the Calvert Trust Kielder have been an incredible oasis of togetherness and “can do” attitude. They have changed my life so much. I’ve been going there 14 years now, and I can’t wait until I can go again. (Once those bastard midges have buggered off for the year…)

So: I’m doing the Great North Run in aid of them. People who know me will know that I am about as un-sporty as they come; rotund, unfit, and generally loathe physical activity! So you’ll appreciate just how much this commitment is.

I know that many of my friends, co-campaigners and so on don’t have much or any money, so please don’t feel obligated – but should you wish to sponsor me, you can do so here:

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Or by text:

ss+(2015-06-02+at+03.21.06)

Thank you!!!!

Wetherby and Kielder Weather

 Miscellany  Comments Off on Wetherby and Kielder Weather
May 062013
 

OK not political, FoI or Disability related for once.

I’ve been busy recently writing two Weather websites. The first, Wetherby Weather, started from a bargain basement purchase of a weather station on eBay. Using Cumulus and various utilities written by generous and talented third parties, that data is put on the Web – realtime and archived – as well as being supplied to various weather networks round the world. I log wind direction and strength (average and gust), also temperature, barometric pressure and humidity.

What do most people look at weather websites for, though? The forecast. The best I could achieve with that was the Zambretti automatic short-term weather forecast. That’s reasonable for a few hours, if a little less than descriptive – but not much more than that. I linked to the Met Office forecast – but ideally wanted to produce my own.

WXSIM fits the bill perfectly. It’s just been adjusted to work with Cumulus. It is customised for Wetherby. It takes aviation weather data, meteorological station, weather buoys, ozone measurements, data from regular weather balloon soundings and the outputs of the global forecast system. Starting with the current and historical data from my weather station, and using carefully tailored internal algorithms, it models various elements of the weather over the next few days.

It models temperature, dew point, precipitation, barometric pressure, wind direction, strength and gusts at various levels, advection, soil moisture, Ultraviolet radiation, visibility, wind chill, humidex, evapotranspiration, cloud cover at five atmospheric levels, and other things beyond my ken, to produce a detailed and accurate weather forecast.

I perform some manual forecasts; then my system runs the model and updates the forecast 8 times a day automatically based on the decisions I made in my last manual run.

The detailed forecast is then uploaded and is available on the Wetherby Weather website. It’s also available on the iPhone / Android Wetherby Weather site, as a daily email from the free Wetherby Weather mailing list, via the Wetherby Weather Twitter feed and the Wetherby Weather Facebook profile. I also upload photos, and commentary on any unusual weather events happening in Wetherby.

Then I went away. There’s a fabulous place I go regularly; a disability respite and outdoor activity centre on Kielder water. It sounds trite but the Calvert Trust Kielder has changed my life. It’s made me aware of what can happen with a staff and organisational “can do” attitude and atmosphere; as opposed to some less helpful attitudes from other organisations I could mention. It’s been a challenge and a comfort over the past 10 years; a genuine respite – particularly during the shameful abuse and eviction attempt by Leonard Cheshire..

I ruminated that finding an accurate forecast for Kielder is difficult. A decent, customised forecast for Kielder would be invaluable. With my recent experience with Wetherby, I knew that I could set up a forecast for Kielder. So I did. See the Kielder Weather website and Kielder Weather mobile site, also the Kielder Weather Twitter feed and Kielder Weather Facebook profile.

The Calvert Trust Kielder feature my forecast on their homepage, and published a news article about my forecasts.

So what now? I archive both sets of forecasts and will be tweaking them against actual data observed – though this is proving somewhat difficult to obtain for Kielder. I am hoping to increase the accuracy of my forecasts.

I’m in the middle of an Open University course on meteorology (having got an existing degree in Earth Sciences and IT through them). No doubt that will inspire me further in new directions!

Ex-carer (lesbian) to be returned to homophobic Malawi

 Miscellany  Comments Off on Ex-carer (lesbian) to be returned to homophobic Malawi
Oct 102012
 

My ex-carer is being deported to Malawi. She’s claiming asylum as she is a lesbian; society in Malawi is strongly anti-gay, so much so that last year the government introduced a new law specifically against lesbianism. She faces returning to a forced marriage to an abusive husband, and lifelong denial of her sexuality on threat of State or community punishment. The Home Office are refusing to believe her. Please do sign this petition.

%d bloggers like this: