More Calories Please

Public Health England now recommends that:

…adults try to limit the calories of their three main meals to 400 for breakfast and 600 each for lunch and dinner […noting] that the remaining calories of the daily guidelines – 2,000 for women and 2,500 for men – are likely to be made up of snacks and drinks.

To achieve this, the government is challenging the food industry to reduce calories in products consumed by families by 20% by 2024. The categories of foods this applies to includes pizzas, ready meals, ready-made sandwiches, meat products and savoury snacks. It’s likely they’ll achieve this target with smaller portion sizes, which fills me with deep and profound sadness.

I successfully weaned myself off unhealthy snacks and drinks several years ago, so I tend to eat bigger portions for my main meals. There is no world in which I want to eat just 1600 calories for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with the remaining 900 calories on snacks. I can manage this fine when I’m preparing food for myself at home or work, but when I’m on the move it’s clearly going to become harder and harder to find ready-made lunches that have 700-800 calories without adding on crisps or snacks or whatever.

I’m not a nutritionist or a food scientist, but I do know that barely anyone eats the suggested servings for things like breakfast cereal. Just try weighing out 45 grams – it looks like nothing. If retailers have to reduce their portion sizes, I wouldn’t be surprised that people just end up buying multiple portions – a hugely wasteful practice.

Others feel the same way. Susan Jebb, professor of diet and population health at the University of Oxford was interview by the Guardian:

While she welcomed raising calorie-awareness, she noted that the recommendation to eat a total of 1,600 calories for main meals was well below daily levels and assumed people were snacking. “Maybe it is better to have a slightly bigger meal and not to snack,” she said.

Valuing Friendship over Principle

Lately, I’ve been spotting more and more cases of people valuing friendships over principle. Here’s what Quinn Norton, who was hired and then swiftly fired from the New York Times Opinion section for her offensive comments in the past, along with her friendship with neo-Nazi Andrew Auernheimer, said:

I was called a Nazi because of my friendship with the infamous neo-Nazi known on the internet as weev—his given name is Andrew Auernheimer; he helps run the anti-Semitic website The Daily Stormer. In my pacifism, I can’t reject a friendship, even when a friend has taken such a horrifying path. I am not the judge of who is capable of improving as a person. This philosophy also requires me to confront him about his terrible beliefs and their terrible consequences. I have been doing this since before his brief time as a cause célèbre in 2012—I believe it’d be hypocritical for me to turn away from this obligation. weev is just one of many terrible people I’ve cared for in my life. I don’t support what my terrible friend believes or does. But I strongly advocate for people with a good sense of themselves and their values to engage with their terrible friends, coworkers, and relatives, to lovingly confront them for as long as it takes, and it would be wrong to not do so myself.

This is obviously an extreme case. I imagine – or at least, hope – that most people would end friendships with those who become neo-Nazis. And note that I am deliberately talking about friendships, not familial relationships. You can’t choose your family.

But I’ve seen many more cases where people will refrain from criticising friends (often not very close friends) who say or do things that conflict with their principles. I’m not talking about ending friendships with people who say racist or sexist things, because to be frank, most people know better than to do that. I’m talking about expressing political, professional, intellectual, and philosophical differences with friends.

Let me give a slightly painful, personal example. In 2010, I wrote a post entitled Can a Game Save the World, where I criticised comments by Jane McGonigal about the power of games. I’m not in the habit of criticising friends, especially in public, but: given her very public profile; the resounding silence from anyone in the games or tech industry at the time; and the degree to which I disagreed with her, I felt a responsibility to say something, if only to show that disagreement existed within the games community. I certainly wouldn’t bother in most cases.

My post led to arguments. Many mutual friends privately told me they agreed with everything I had written, but for the most part they said nothing because I assume they didn’t want to affect their friendship with Jane, or possibly their professional lives, given her influence.

What’s the lesson? We all draw our own lines, and in our comparatively new online world of having hundreds of friends and kind-of-friends and acquaintances, maybe we aren’t sure how to express differences and disagreements, especially when it seems the only way to do so in public is via a megaphone to the entire world that can only broadcast 280 characters at a time (another reason for blogs to come back!).

But we should remember that adults can have disagreements and yet remain friends. I’m no Chidi Anagonye, I don’t believe in radical truth-telling, but I do think it’s essential for us to practice how to disagree with each other publicly, politely, and firmly, because that’s how we learn what we really believe, and what we’re prepared to do to to defend those beliefs.

After all, “if you won’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

Disneyworld Day 8: Animal Kingdom

  • Our final half-day at Disneyworld! It’s been emotional. There was just one more ride we really wanted to see, which was…
  • Navi River Journey at Animal Kingdom; yesterday, we’d improbably bagged a Fastpass for the morning. It’s a high tech slow ride, very different from Frozen Ever After in that it has no story and has few animatronics. Instead, it uses projectors on see-through surfaces to create the impression of depth, as you can see real leaves and trees and such both in front and behind the projected image. It was good enough to fool me for about ten seconds, which is impressive. Some of the projections worked better than others; I particularly liked these giant leaves suspended from the ceiling, shaking in sync with projected images of creatures scampering on top.

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Disneyworld Day 7: Animal Kingdom

  • Lazy morning today, partly because we’re running out of things to do at the parks.
  • Most of the Disney resort hotels have a respectable if slightly aged arcade; ours had the best game ever, skeeball.
  • Festival of The Lion King in Animal Kingdom was a good musical, although I wasn’t sold on the pair of birds who stood in for Simba and Nala during the love song bits. I get the logistical problems involved in having ‘lions’ do it, but it’s just confusing to have birds instead. I liked the ‘human’ performers best.

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Disneyworld Day 6: Epcot

  • We needed to be at Epcot for 10:15am at the latest due to a valuable Fastpass, so we gave ourselves over an hour. As it turned out, there was a runDisney half-marathon ending around 9:45am, which snarled up the traffic and blocked off the ticket entry gates. It’s great that Disney organises running events and delays are bound to happen. That said, there was poor queue management (no signs about the new entry queue location) and little to no communication about the massive delays.
  • Disney are fully capable of emailing guests when disruption is expected. If a ride becomes unavailable during your Fastpass reservation time (e.g. it breaks), they’ll email you with a replacement Fastpass for other rides. So if they know that there’ll be big delays on a certain day, why let guests book tickets during that disruption? Or why not email them when the disruption turns out to be bigger? I realise that within a complex organisation, these are not simple things to set up; but for a company so focused on delivering happiness to guests, I’m surprised they let people stew in line for so long. I know a fair few people missed their reservations because of the delay.
  • As it turns out, so did we. Fortunately for us, Frozen Ever After was broken at this time so we were emailed a replacement Fastpass anyway.
  • Finally, I’d note that our bus driver told us, “Hey, you should know that a half-marathon is on and Epcot will be super busy and slow to get into. So maybe you should go to another park instead.” Really useful information – if only she’d told everyone this before we got on the bus, rather than five minutes out of Epcot.
  • Partly due to the big queues, Frozen Ever After only had a 25 minute wait when we got into the park, so we chose to just line up instead. It has a neat waiting area filled with cute details and looks remarkably like a town square. The ride itself had incredibly good animatronics that (I assume) used internal projection mapping on a deformable surface. At some point these things will start walking around… As for the story, it was a standard recap of the movie, which was a little disappointing, but probably what the kids want.

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Disneyworld Day 5: Kennedy Space Center

  • We booked a trip to Kennedy Space Center today with Gray Line, which looked like the best choice for people staying at Disneyworld who don’t (or in our case, can’t) drive. By and large it worked out pretty well – we got picked up directly from our hotel.
  • Unfortunately, our coach driver provided wholly unwelcome running commentary about the history of Disneyworld, nearby shopping centres, Florida, Orlando, etc. I get that some people appreciate this, but there’s no way to turn it off and it’s pretty loud. To cap it all off, the driver got a speeding ticket on the highway so we had to stop for 15 minutes.
  • Kennedy Space Center is an odd mishmash of historical artefacts from the early days of rocketry plus a heavy dose of NASA and corporate propaganda. Now, I’m a big fan of space exploration but I couldn’t really figure out whether they were more about education or entertainment. None of this detracted from their collection of truly sensational rockets and artefacts though.
  • You can see some decent rockets and Space Shuttles at other museums, but KSC has one thing that they can’t match: an actual working launch complex. Included in entry are frequent bus tours of the launchpads, Vehicle Assembly Building, crawlers, and if you’re lucky, some alligators and falcon nests.

  • Our driver’s very good commentary was accompanied by NASA videos that tried to convince us that their new Space Launch System rocket will be the bee’s knees rather than a billion-dollar-per-launch white elephant that can’t compete against SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy & BFR combo. But the driver was enthusiastic about the recent successful launch of the Falcon Heavy from a launchpad we drove around, so it’s all good.

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Disneyworld Day 4: Magic Kingdom

  • Breakfast at Be Our Guest was an exceptionally unmagical experience because we had to orbit the three dining rooms for five minutes waiting for a table to be freed up. Clearly the restaurant operates on having a minimum of (say) 2% of tables being free, which isn’t really enough to avoid an annoying search. Part of the problem is that there weren’t many tables for just two people, which led to some poor resource utilisation.
  • I was also expecting a higher tech experience. We’d ordered online in advance so I expected some kind of RFID-powered location detection for the wait staff, but as far as I could tell, they just used the printed receipt we received on entry.
  • They did have an electronic ordering system for normal guests, which is… interesting. I haven’t seen any quick service restaurants at Disneyworld using ordering screens, but they’re using it for the fancier one?

  • It’s a Small World reminded me, in a good way, of Toyland Tours at Alton Towers, which in retrospect is a blatant ripoff. It has a similarly catchy song and fun, stylised design.
  • Peter Pan’s Flight was great! One of the best slow rides in terms of layout, sight lines, models, and overall experience. I wasn’t expecting that our ‘cars’ would be hanging from the ceiling.
  • Mickey’s Philharmagic is another one of those dated 3D movies, albeit with great music. I laughed at the comedy transition to The Lion King song, which doesn’t at all fit into the narrative framing device.

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Disneyworld Day 3: Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, The Void, Disney Springs

  • Hollywood Studios lived up to its reputation as “the half day park”. The problem is that the theming of “hey, we’re in Hollywood” just isn’t as interesting or as resonant as it used to be, certainly not compared to other parks or even Epcot. Which is I guess why they’re adding on Toy Story and Star Wars-themed lands.
  • Star Tours was good fun, as usual. We saw what must have been a fairly new video, since it had The Last Jedi footage and we landed in Galaxy’s Edge, the upcoming Star Wars land. This will be a fantastic introduction to Galaxy’s Edge but it doesn’t make much sense to guests right now, particularly the intro, which leaves you wondering why ‘Star Tours’ starts out on an enemy ship to begin with.
  • Some of Muppetvision 3D’s jokes are still good (“We’re doing a tribute to all the nations in the world, but mostly America”), but overall it needs updating. Since The Muppets are apparently getting rebooted, maybe this will happen sooner rather than later.
  • I never watched The Twilight Zone, so whenever I ride The Tower of Terror it always reminds me of Futurama’s loving parody, The Scary Door. Sadly, some of the kids we rode with declared it ‘boring’, presumably in comparison to the Guardians of the Galaxy version in Disneyland.
  • Star Wars Launch Bay is a bizarrely office-like structure full of movie models and character encounters. A stopgap solution until Galaxy’s Edge is built.
  • Walt Disney Presents is worth a wander through.
  • We caught the Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away stage show, a weird medley of dramatic scenes from all nine(!) Star Wars movies plus live actors. I was mostly impressed by the screen that remained bright even in full noon sunlight.
  • Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular was entertaining.
  • Toy Story Mania, a shooting gallery game with 3D glasses and moving cars, was a blast and felt more fun than it conceptually should have been. I don’t know if it’s the action of pulling a string to fire a gun, or the atmosphere, or the 3D, or the moving cars, or everything put together, but it felt good. Not sure it justifies two hour wait times, but I guess there’s not much else to do in Hollywood Studios.
  • Lunch at the 50’s Prime Time Cafe. Great theming and our attendant wasn’t as bothersome as we’d feared.
  • Perhaps due to the new Avatar ‘Pandora’ land, I had the idea that Animal Kingdom was basically an animal-themed park without real animals. Of course in reality it’s more like a zoo and safari park, which is pretty neat. Like many other parts of Disneyworld, the African and Asian sections suffer from silly stereotypes that need to be updated.

Disneyworld Day 2: Blizzard Beach, Epcot, Boardwalk

  • The free intra-resort bus service has pretty good thus far. In some cases it’s been faster than an Uber, since the buses can usually get closer to the actual entrance of the park. But on average, I think the buses are about 10-15 min slower than Uber, which is not bad given the savings. My main wish is that more stops would have ETA boards; some places do, most don’t.
  • Blizzard Beach was a lot of fun! Sure, the competition isn’t strong, but this has to be the best watermark I’ve been to. There’s a great range of slides, everything is clean and well-signposted, and all the staff were friendly. We’d read that on park opening you should run to the tallest slide, Summit Plummet, to avoid queues, but the entire park was very quiet. The longest we waited was about 15 minutes, and most slides had barely anyone at all in front.
  • FYI, while I like near-vertical drops, Summit Plummet wasn’t worth a second ride, whereas Toboggan Racers and the Purple rides were.
  • Epcot shouldn’t work as a theme park, and yet it does. It’s educational, but not as educational as a museum. It’s fun, but not as fun as the other parks. It’s got miniature versions of other countries… and yeah, those are pretty unique. I don’t say this to knock Epcot – I’m just amazed that Disney keeps it running. I guess the scale helps soak up a lot of visitors, and a lot of the capital expenditures have already been made.

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