Saturday, March 23, 2013


This brings tears to my eyes

The things you can get in American supermarkets

Starring a five-person quartet!

Safety first

As some of you know, my wife and I are avid runners. In this capacity we often take part in races of various lengths. Travelling down to our most recent race, Mrs. Newbie pointed something out that I had completely overlooked: the difference between the precautions taken by race organisers in the United States and in our last port of call prior to expatriation: France.

In the "Hexagon", people who sign up for a race are required to supply a doctor's certificate confirming that they are at least physically fit enough to undertake a race of this kind. Those who run more regularly and are members of a club are automatically members of the French Athletics Federation, the FFA, and therefore just have to provide a photocopy of their "licence" to prove their aptitude for a race.

By contrast, in the US, where individual liberty is valued almost above anything else and where people are suspicious of any form of authority, race organisers do no require you to prove you won't have a heart attack and die while taking part in a sporting event. The general idea is that if you want to run a race, you shouldn't be prevented from doing so by some meddling medic. However, because America is also Tort Central, race organisers want to avoid being sued by litigious souls stupid enough to overexert themselves, but who have ready access to a lawyer keen to extract seven-figure compensation.

As a consequence, would-be participants in any race are made to sign extensive waivers designed to absolve organisers of any responsibility associated with racing. The following is an actual waiver that I signed and typical of the hand-washing that goes on:

"I realize that this course presents a number of potential dangers to me and I hereby  assume the risk arising from all of them. I realize that I will be running on a variety of surfaces, some of them far less than perfect. The roads are open  to motor vehicle traffic that has the right of way. I realize that the danger of injury and even death exists as well and I hereby assume all the risks that may be present on the course. I realize this race is a strenuous athletic event. I certify that I have no physical or medical condition which would interfere with my participation in the race and that I have trained adequately for this race. I realize that I have the sole and ultimate responsibility for my own safety during the race and that if I see a situation/condition which presents risk of injury to me, I will avoid the situation/condition or immediately withdraw from the race. I her e b y  waive for myself, my heirs, executors and all other successors of interest any  and all rights and claims which  I may now have or hereafter accrue against the organizers and sponsors of this event, against all other entities and people who may issue permits for or help with this event, and against all property owners of land which the course may pass. I make this waiver for all the rights and  claims that have been specific  ally referred above, and for all others which might not be specifically named. I agree and intend that the above recitations are contractually binding and if I or my successors assert a claim in contravention of this agreement, I or my successors shall be liable for the expenses (including all legal fees) incurred  by the other party in defending."
Last weekend, a 47-year-old runner had a heart attack and died a mile from the end of the New York City Half Marathon. In 2009, no fewer than three people died while running the Detroit Marathon. Although it is extremely rare for so many participants in a race to die, it only highlights the fact that if medically untrained individuals decide about their ability to run what is after all still an extremely long distance, their judgement is more likely to be biased and wrong than somebody with 6-10 years of medical training.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Changing-room etiquette

Based on my eye-opening and sometimes gut-wrenching experiences of American changing rooms, I would like to propose the following

Ten Commandments of Locker-Room & Spa Etiquette
1. Thou shalt not spray gym-provided deodorant on the top of thy head and arms, nor on thy feet or backside.
2. Thou shalt cure thine nappy rash before parading around in the nude.
3. Thou shalt not steal mine towel. I tooketh it into the shower for a reason.
4. Thou shalt not claim non-existent linguistic skills and confidently assert that Europeans are Australian.
5. Thou shalt not attempt to sell fellow sauna or hot-tub users on the alleged wonders of vacation cruises. Europeans don't cruise.
6. Thou shalt not pre-warm thy sportswear in the sauna. The same applieth to tennis racquets and gym shoes.
7. Thou shalt not dive into the whirlpool.
8. Thou shalt not sit fully clothed in the sauna. Thou only looketh like an idiot.
9. Thou shalt not blow-dry thy nether regions. Especially not with one foot on the sink.

And finally:

10.Thou shalt not prominently carry paperware betwixt thy buttocks.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Local Crime

We clearly live too close to Detroit. This is getting unbearable.