wasting

After two months in lockdown, I'm now underweight.

I'd say "I don't know how this happened" but I think I can guess: the loss of gyms caused me to switch to running as my main exercise, and the absence of a commute encouraged me to work in a quick bodyweight session on days I don't run. 

According to my Apple Watch, the amount of calories I"m burning each day has gone down as a result, but I'm beginning to suspect that that might be… wrong?

(In boring detail: it seems that the Watch values length of workout above all else, leading to some insane calorie counts for weights sessions which break an hour, even if a substantial chunk of those sessions involves waiting for squat racks, while a bodyweight HIIT workout at home probably involves the same amount of time actually exercising but compressed into 20 minutes.)

"BMI is bullshit" is a popular view these days, and it's probably true that my BMI dropping to 18.1 isn't meaningfully concerning. I eat a lot, exercise a lot and am naturally very skinny, so yeah, I'm not worried that I'll start experiencing health problems. But at the same time, BMI or no, I've lost 3kg in my most sedentary two months ever after two years of trying desperately to build muscle.

I'm aware that for many, me complaining about being able to put on weight will be, um, unappreciated. But it's frustrating, both as a reminder of the interruption to my life from wavesarmsallthis, and as a blow to my confidence that I will ever be able to break through the very low plateaus I found myself hitting with my weight training.

The plus side

To turn the moaning positive, I'm on the eighth week of a couch to 5K session, and can now consistently reach the Thames with every run, which is extremely good. 

Obviously we're all trapped in our respective neighbourhoods, and mine is fine enough – local amenities are boring but functional, and if I want to walk for an hour, I can reach some useful shops for hard-to-find essentials (will I walk a two hour round trip for some gochujiang? Yes. Emphatically so). But one of the things the Thames has that few spots in London do is nightlines.

I hadn't realised until I reached it, but there's a very obvious feeling of limitation that gets lifted the minute you stand somewhere where you can see miles in multiple directions, rather than having your view blocked by the homes at the end of the road. The rest of London is still there, even if it's not immediately accessible to me.

This is a particularly stupid realisation to have, since I do in fact live in a block of flats with a roof terrace on the 18th floor and could have had a panoramic vista of London by simply getting in a lift any time of the day or night so. Well done me?

Remember I have a book

The law changed last week to finally treat ebooks and digital newspapers with parity for their print equivalents when it comes to VAT, ending the artificial 20% mark-up. It's great – there's never been a good reason for the distinction, though I can see why there's been long delays in the legislation given the baffling impossibility of defining a "digital newspaper or magazine". (Is a PDF of a Sci-Fi anthology magazine a digital magazine? What about an HTML website of the same? What if one of those stories is in choose-your-own adventure format? What if the story in choose your own adventure format has hyperlinks? What if it's presented as an iOS app? What if it has illustrations? What if the illustrations move? What if the choose your own adventure is an adaptation of a famous novel? What if it's 80 Days? What if a videogame is an eBook? It's someone's job now to decide where you draw a line in that list. Good luck!)

Anyway I was going to use this an excuse to re-link to the book I'm co-writing by saying "Amazon has passed on the discount to consumers" but it looks like it… hasn't. Or, more specifically, that Amazon's price of £4.99 is already a 50% discount and it doesn't seem inclined to lower that further. Though oddly the print edition is now discounted by 12%?

I don't really know what goes on at Amazon but I do know I filed my chapters last week and two were accepted without edits so I'm on a high right now. Buy my book.

You should install the Covid tracker app when you can

One of the weird things about journalism is that sometimes you want to hold people to account for their mistakes without harming their reputation. It's a tricky balancing act! Sometimes people make errors, but their errors shouldn't discount the sum total of their work, yet it's tricky to communicate that in a short newspaper article.

Anyway, the NHS is currently making errors about how it builds its covid contact tracing app. With the best of intentions, the health service has headed down a route that, based on international evidence and testimony from experts… won't work. The format that they've decided to take, which involves sending contact events to the NHS for analysis and security purposes, hinders the app's effectiveness on iOS. 

The NHS will probably have to change how it runs the app at some point, and there'll be a huge fuss over the errors they made until then, and the sooner they make those changes, the better we can have an effective contact tracing app.

But! Every time I write about this, some proportion of my readers tweet that they will never install the app. And that's… concerning? Because if the problem with the app is that it might not work very well, then refusing to install the app is only guaranteeing that it doesn't work well.

So, please do install the app! Even if you agree that it would be better built as a decentralised version! You can pressure for change without opting out of the whole system, and it would be… good if you did that.