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Abject nonsense

Its authors, Helen Hester and Nick Srnicek, cite eye-opening statistics. The amount of time we spend on domestic work did not decrease at all between the 1870s and the 1970s. In 1975 American mothers had 37.7 hours of free time a week; by 2008 it had fallen to 31.4 hours.

We’ve also got the latest food book about ultraprocessed etc insisting that exercixse does not use up calories. No, not a claim that we just eat more to compensate, now that muscle weighs more but is more dense than fat – but literally, exercise does not consume calories.

#When we’ve got people actively trying to influence public policy on the back of such idiocy about reality what are we supposed to do? Can’t shoot them all.

37 thoughts on “Abject nonsense”

  1. Strange metric they’re using. Time but not considering what gets done in the time. It’s not a measure of productivity, is it? House keeping was hard manual work but has become progressively less so. 1870, few clothes were owned but were washed by hand. 1970, far more clothes owned but washing machines. Easy to see how the time washing clothes could be the same but the productivity much greater. Increases in standards of living don’t necessarily come free.

  2. I get BiS’s point: run the washer once a day vs washday once a week, plus fresh clothes each day means more ironing, even if the ironing is quicker. However, unless you count waiting for the washer or dryer to finish as work, I still don’t think the pre-home appliances age involved less domestic chore time.

    literally, exercise does not consume calories

    Who is making that claim!!??

  3. Tell you what, I’ll bet that the hours a week spent on domestic work by the children in the household have almost vanished. Does any child now polish everyone’s shoes (or de-smell everyone’s trainers, or whatever)? Does any child run errands? Help Mum hang up the laundry and later bring it in and help fold it?

    Do children still lay the table, clear the table, dry the dishes, make their own beds, bring in the coal …? Deal with mice or spiders? Look after the raspberry patch, harvest the rhubarb, water the greenhouse? Dig out weeds, mow the lawn? Prune the hedge? Wire a plug if Dad’s out?

    Still, I suppose children nowadays help their parents with smart phones and computers and so on, do they?

  4. So, I read the article….

    The report is probably broadly correct in saying that we have filled up the free time created by domestic devices with other stuff (not just housework). Women have filled it with working, of course. But both men and women spend more time parenting or rather neurotically smothering their offspring. More single parent families mean more work too.

    @dearime – I see little evidence amongst my UK friends of children helping out with chores.

    The (obviously mad) authors apparently recommend solving the problem with some sort of terrifying state communal childcare when the obvious solution would be for marriage and the family to be arranged as it was for hundreds of years. Encouraging single parent families, making it hard to choose childcare over work, ignoring elderly parents, overparenting, undermining family hierarchies etc clearly haven’t worked.

  5. Hmmm. Toss clothes in hamper during the week. Read Tim Worstall’s blog Sunday morning. Be reminded to do laundry. Carry hamper to washing machine. Toss clothes in washer and turn on. Put hamper back. Go back to reading Tim’s blog. In 45 minutes switch clothes to dryer. Read something else. Half an hour later take clothes out, fold and put away. I think I have one shirt to iron. So, less than 90 minutes, most of which was spent reading. The only actual labor involved hamper carrying, folding and a bit of ironing that I may dispense with. My great-grandmother would be horrified to realize it takes almost as much time today as in her day. No progress at all.

  6. Carry hamper to washing machine. Toss clothes in washer and turn on. Put hamper back. Go back to reading Tim’s blog. In 45 minutes switch clothes to dryer.

    Lazy sod TD. Don’t you know theirs a climate crisis? Get it on the line in the garden while the sun’s shining.

  7. More likely the wife getting a job?
    Or women not having a job? Look at the time span they’re talking about. 1870’s most women would be working. The 1970’s are the tail end of that mid C20thy anomaly, the non-working stay-at-home housewife. Previously, only an upper middle class practise.
    No, not a claim that we just eat more to compensate, now that muscle weighs more but is more dense than fat – but literally, exercise does not consume calories.
    Depends how you define exercise. There was an interesting TV program some years back. Experiment. They took half a dozen couples over a period. Monitored their food intake & weight. Three different life styles. Two couples spent their days sprawled on the sofa watching TV. Two couples did much the same but punctuated by a strenuous 2 hour gym workout. Third couples did manual work 8 hours a day. There was virtually no difference between the calorie intake/ weight change between the sofa sprawlers & the gym bunnies. The workers lost weight compared to calorie intake. If I remember rightly, they then swapped the couple round & got similar results. So if you’re defining exercise as formal exercise, it may well be true. Short periods of it you burn bugger all calories.
    I’ve long suspected that one of the reasons for obesity is the ubiquitous sofa & TV & the proliferation of ergonomic office chairs. How often do you go round see the fat bastard & find him sprawled on the sofa, chin on his chest, eyes glued. Spends about 5 hours a day like that. Might as well be in bed. Even sitting in an upright chair uses a remarkable amount of energy because the muscles are working to keep you upright. So does standing at the sink. Jogging round the park for an hour FA.

  8. Yes, there is a lot to be said for sun dried clothes, provided a flock of those damned Canada geese don’t fly over necessitating the need to wash again. However, having seen your comment before the washing machine stopped I decided to and and let air dry the good shirt in the closet. Everything else went in the dryer, giving me time to respond while also warming the planet. It is an electric, not gas, dryer though.

  9. a flock of those damned Canada geese
    I gave a couple a lift home from their bar last week, with the top down on the car. About 3 in the morning. Him in the front ‘cos he’s 6’2’, her in the back. Just before we got to their place I spotted the seagulls circling. Scrunched down in the seat in anticipation. Amazingly accurate things birds. She got the lot. Four separate strikes. Not a drop on either of us blokes or the even the car. Just a bit of backspray on the bootlid from her head.

  10. Dennis, Pointing Out The Obvious, Yet Again

    Helen Hester
    Professor of Gender, Technology and Cultural Politics
    London School of Film, Media and Design

    Nick Srnicek
    Lecturer in Digital Economy, Department of Digital Humanities
    King’s College London.

    Not real academics, not real scientists, not real academic disciplines.

  11. Not sure the claim was that work doesn’t consume calories. More likely, that baseline caloric needs differ only slightly from caloric needs with exercise added. Inelegantly phrased. It’s the root of the “you can’t lose weight purely through exercise, caloric intake is much more important to the process” argument.

  12. Bloke in North Dorset

    “you can’t lose weight purely through exercise, caloric intake is much more important to the process”

    The problem isn’t that you can’t lose weight purely by exercise it’s that people over estimate how many calories exercise burns and under estimate how many calories are un snacks. So when they treat themselves for being virtuous and going to the gym they often taken on more than they’ve burned.

    I’ve been there and done it and seen it often. It’s much easier with modern tools such as smart watches that track fairly accurately active calories burned while you’re exercising.

  13. When I was 19, I went back to college a fortnight early after Christmas to do the “work” (study with written output) that my tutor expected me to do in the vacation. I ate standard college meals, spent several hours a day (cannot remember exactly, probably about eight) on homework, and took a lot of exercise in my “spare” time. I lost just over a stone (6.4kg) in two weeks.
    Anyone who denies that exercise helps you to lose weight is either stupid or a deliberate liar.
    I have repeated the exercise on a smaller scale many times since then (because I like good food and tend to put on weight if I don’t take enough exercise, so sometimes my weight and waistline increase too far).

  14. you can’t lose weight purely through exercise, caloric intake is much more important to the process

    This is certainly true but I have noticed that people with fad diets to sell (ie the wankers profiled in newspapers) push their faddy plan and pooh pooh exercise. If you are restricting calories (by whatever means ) in order to lose weight, the best way to juice your results is to take plenty of exercise. Which if nothing else will keep you out of the fridge…

  15. @BiND – thanks, I’d read something by the crank/snob/prodnose in one of the worthless rags which thinks fear, hysteria and outrage is a handy substitute for news.

  16. TD @ 2.31, My sister in Alberta opined that the collective noun for Canada Geese is “Shitload”.

  17. I’m completely ignorant of physiology. Is there a possibility that the physical effort that has the most beneficial effect on weight is sustained application, even if the exercise is quite mild, rather than bursts of more vigorous exercise e.g. fannying about in the gym?

    If that were true (if!) it could either be a true physiological effect or a second-hand effect whereby the acute effort makes you hungrier than the chronic effort.

  18. 12 years ago I certainly found that cycling 12 miles to the shops and back twice a week reduced my weight more than “exercise”.

  19. I’ve just looked at Gurker’s fascinating link. One omission struck me. Here’s the quotation.

    “So when your body responds to increased physical activity by scaling back energy expenditure on other functions, what are you missing out on? In children, it’s mostly growth: those Shuar children, with their high levels of physical activity and their busy immune response to a heavy infectious disease burden, are substantially shorter than children in industrialized countries. In adults, it’s less visible: some researchers have suggested that when we become more active we unconsciously reduce non-exercise physical activity like standing or fidgeting, but Pontzer thinks most of the cutbacks come from the energy that would otherwise be spent on things like stress reactivity, the reproductive system, and inflammatory response”

    The omission? I understand, in my ignorant way, that our brains are substantial consumers of energy. Maybe the knackered adults of the Shuar think less than non-knackerred people. Maybe that explains a problem in The West: almost everybody is non-knackered and therefore spends time thinking even when they are not very good at it. Hence, perhaps, waves of quasi-religious hysteria about Climate, Covid, and lots of other bollocks.

    It’s a Grand Theory of Everything, I tell you.

  20. Well said, TD. When my grandmother bought her first automatic washing machine in the late ’70s, she reminisced about spending a whole day doing “a washing” back in the ’30s – and it was a whole day, down at the wash-house – while this thing could do it in a couple of hours while she did something else. That’s the productivity gain.

  21. What a fluke. The brain thing: I’ve just stumbled across this:

    On the Indonesian island of Flores, a band of human-like beings was marooned and isolated, and the result was the stuff of horror movies and H.P. Lovecraft stories. The road of efficiency is a different way to deal with the harsh equations of energy balance, and Homo floresiensis began to reduce their basal metabolic load first by becoming smaller and then by giving up their brains. After a few thousand years of evolution, we see skeletons that are stunted, deformed, and with skulls that have room for brains no larger than those of a chimpanzee. How wonderful. Just think how energy efficient they must have been.

  22. Bloody hell, I do recommend the substack on which I found the above. It also yielded this:

    … early pacemakers made in the 1970s were powered by plutonium decay which gave them extraordinary power density and meant they could last an entire human lifespan. Thanks to anti-nuclear hysteria, modern pacemakers come with normal batteries, and need to be replaced after a few decades, which means you might be lucky enough to have open-heart surgery in your 90s. Yes, this is a synecdoche for our entire society.

  23. dearime @ 11.57, I’m sure i’ve seen some of them ‘Flores types’ walking around here on a Saturday night after chucking out time….

    I am also trying to come up with other examples of stunted evolution due to inbreeding.
    Locally there’s Harwich Essex, then March Cambridgeshire, anywhere in Norfolk obvs., then the ropers of the land of the pure. Not content to do the world a favour and stay put and ‘do a Flores’, they are merrily spreading the benefits of generations of inter-cousin marriage to the western world…..

  24. dearime @ 12.07. On that topic, I seem to recall a NASA asteroid probe which, in previous days, would have had a nuclear power source which would last decades, was fitted with solar panels to charge batteries. It landed on the designated asteroid but in a crater, in shadow. Went dead after a short period of time. I suppose in a couple of million years the asteroid will circle round and get some rays but I don’t suppose we’ll be around / give a fuck by then.

  25. @Tom, Addolff: you stimulate a dim memory of nuclear-powered people: how do you ensure, the joke went, that they don’t assemble a critical mass in a packed lift?

  26. @ dearieme 10.41
    I was interested to read that when our bodies create and expel CO2, one of the oxygen atoms comes from water that was already in your body. So our body burning sugar for energy uses that energy to electrolyse some of the body’s water into H2 and O – wonderful, we no longer need fossil-fuel burning power stations, we can generate clean H2 for all the fuel cells we need just by harnessing human metabolisms!
    I don’t think I’ll waste my money on buying the book.

  27. John77: I don’t think that’s so, C6H12O6 (s) + 6 O2 (g) → 6 CO2 (g) + 6 H2O (l). Even digging into the Krebs cycle, I don’t see any hydrolysis involved.

  28. @ TomJ
    If you read the sixth paragraph in the review of “Burn” you will see a claom that the second of the Oxygen atoms in the CO2 comes from H2O already in the body. Like you, I was taught the equation for turning sugar into CO2 when I was in my early teens: what I was saying is that I reckon that anyone claiming that it involves stripping an oxygen atom out of pre-existing water in order to justify using a vastly expensive and highly dangerous technique of feeding someone deuterium in order to measure their expenditure of energy, (forgetting that glucose is not the only form of sugar) is not worth spending my money

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