Sunday, February 21, 2010

Full of yummy badness

I must have anorexia. You see, every time I look at myself in the mirror, I see a fat goat...

My doctor had an absolute fit a month or so ago when he saw the results of my cholesterol test. “You must reduce the fat in your diet. Wholesale lifestyle changes, otherwise you are going to die.”

“And since when have you been the custodian of the secret of immortality?”

“All right. ‘You’re going to die soon.’ Happy now, Mr Semantically-Sensitive Goat?”

So in addition to the new prescription of cholesterol-lowering medication I have switched to a low-fat, low cholesterol, low taste, healthy diet. I now eschew lard, eggs, processed meat, red meat, butter, cheese, cream, pies, pasties, and proper milk, and instead eat fresh steamed vegetables, grilled chicken, salads with balsamic vinegar dressing, tofu, low-fat yoghurt, whole grains, horse food and rabbit food.

It’s all been a bit of a struggle really. Most of the list of Verbotenfruct is stuff I seldom if ever ate anyway: fast food burgers, cream cakes, anything containing trans-fats, deep-fried pizzas and sausages in batter. So this leaves very little in the way of Yummy Badness still to cut out. English fry-up breakfasts, steak and chips and pies are what I have had to drop, and as a self-styled Lord of the Pies this has been difficult. Now it’s zero English breakfasts a month rather than one.

Beloved Wife and I have worked hard to think up new and inventive ways to make this healthy diet palatable. At least I enjoy seasonal vegetables, and moderate consumption of booze is considered OK. There’s no cholesterol in beer, wine or G&T, although ‘moderate’ clearly precludes drowning one’s sorrows.

Anyway, the process was apparently a success, and my total cholesterol has dropped from an allegedly life-threatening 254mg/dl (or 6.57mmol/l in old money) to an astonishing 127 (or is that 3.28?) which is well below the desirable maximum value of 200. Triglyceride and LDL levels are also now the healthy side of maximum. And my blood pressure had dropped too, no thanks to work-related stress. Mysteriously, even though the new diet leaves me constantly hungry, my body weight steadfastly refuses to budge.

LDL and HDL are interesting. The misnomer is that these are ‘bad’ and ‘good’ cholesterol. Given that cholesterol is the specific molecule C27H46O there ain’t no such thing as a good one or a bad one. Actually LDL is a protein that carries cholesterol from the liver so that it can be deposited in artery walls and block them. HDL is a different protein whose purpose is to carry cholesterol from the artery walls back to the liver. Logically then, lots of HDL and little LDL is a good thing.

Unfortunately, my recent diet and pharmaceutical habit has reduced all the horribly high numbers, but has also pulled HDL below the minimum required for a healthy life. I may currently be at higher risk of heart disease that I was before messing with my body chemistry. The solution is to boost HDL by eating wholegrains, tofu, lean meat, nuts, fruit, olive oil, only moderate alcohol consumption and not smoking. This is exactly what I have been doing, paradoxically only to see HDL drop.

What constitutes high cholesterol anyway? Back in the mists of ancient time, five years before the turn of the millennium and before cholesterol had become a fashionable stick with which to beat the populace, I had a total cholesterol test that resulted in 5.7mmol/l and my doctor advising me that this was way below the average value of 7mmol/l and that I should keep up the good work. Several years later, in 2001, the result was 5.79mmol/l or 224mg/dl. Now I was advised that this was borderline high and I should take steps to lower it. An increase from 220mg/dl to 224mg/dl makes all the difference, it appears. Last month the test yielded 254mg/dl, which is now the high side of high. That’s 6.57mmol/l and still below the 1995 average.

Going off on a brief tangent here, the conversion between millimoles per litre and milligrammes per decilitre works like this:-

One cholesterol molecule C27H46O has a molecular weight of 386, so one mole weighs 386 grammes.
One millimole per litre is 0.001mol/l, or 0.0001mol/dl
Since 1mol C27H46O weighs 386g, 0.0001mol weighs 0.0386g = 38.6mg

Thus to convert, 1mmol/l x 38.6 = 1mg/dl

Back to the rant.

I am a cynical old goat. If the medical experts and pharmaceutical companies are in collusion, what better way to increase sales of cholesterol-reducing drugs than to move the goalposts defining what constitutes ‘low’, ‘acceptable’ and ‘high’? And then doctors will have no difficulty in prescribing medication to progressively more and more customers, thus increasing sales. Until we reach to point when all natural levels of cholesterol HDL and LDL are deemed unhealthy and everyone is on medication to achieve and maintain unnatural levels.

There is a long rebuttal of the widely perceived idea that ‘fat in diet = heart disease’ on this hyperlink, for anyone who’s interested enough.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Gold crocodiles, they snap their teeth

They don't only snap their teeth on your cigarette, as the song goes. They also snap their teeth on your - or more to the point, my - wallet.

Regular readers may remember my complaint that I was obliged to pay import duty on the postage in addition to the value of the goods. Today I found out new and inventive additional ways to extract more funds from unsuspecting importers of goods that are Not Coming In Dubai.

The value on which 5% duty is charged ignores any discount applied at the other end! Thus, my goods attract 5% duty on $360 for the full price including postage, rather than on $315 plus postage (which is what I actually paid the seller for my stuff), nor on $270, the value of the goods. I was told to complain over at the Department of Seaports and Customs, but previous experience leads me to infer that this would be a waste of oxygen.

In my case the additional duty paid amounts to only a few dirhams, but the principle as explained to me by the nice Egyptian gentleman behind the desk was that:-

    If I import something invoiced at Dh1000 with free shipping, I pay Dh50 duty.

    If I import something whose original price was Dh100,000, but is discounted by Dh99,000, I have to pay Dh5000: 5% of the original Dh100,000. And there's something morally obscene about that particular arrangement.

My new Egyptian friend told me that I was lucky: in Egypt there's a 200% import duty, etc, etc, blah, blah. Which is of course part of the reason why neither he nor I live in Egypt.

Insult to injury time. There was an additional administration fee to pay Customs, and a further fee to pay Emirates Post for 'storage'.

Apparently I have to pay for two weeks (or part thereof) of storage of my package. I know it left the US on 06 February, and Track and Trace said it arrived in the UAE on 15 February and landed in my local post office on 16 February, six hours before I collected it. Yet I had to pay storage for the eight days when the parcel didn't officially exist, but was actually sitting unsorted somewhere in Dubai.

The moral to this story is labelled Shop&Ship.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The allegory basks on the bank

“George, if I give you this £20, can you please pass it on Kevin at the club?” Fred asked.

George agreed. “I’ll do it for free,” he declared.

And then it occurred to George that this was in addition to Clive’s £30 that he’d promised a couple of his friends he would pass on. George also realised that he didn’t fancy going to the club that evening. It was the other end of town, and he rather preferred the prospect of a quiet evening in with family, a DVD and a bottle of wine.

The obvious solution was to have a word with his next-door neighbour. “Are you going over to the club this evening, Steve?” George asked.


“Would you please give Kevin this £20 and Clive the remaining £30?”

“I will,” Steve replied, “But you owe me a pint for the favour. I’ll take £1 off each of the two, if that’s OK.”

And of course, when Fred found out that Kevin had been short changed, he was incandescent with fury, as were Kevin, Clive and Clive’s friends. Fred resolved to find some new friends who were not George or Steve.


Monday, February 01, 2010

No ID-er

Photo of the Black Beast by HDR enthusiast,

The Goat has managed to survive motorcycling in the UAE for an entire year, and considers wood to be touched. So it comes as no surprise that a visit to the Sharjah Tasjeel Auto Village was in order this week.

The insurance premium went up, despite depreciation of the machine’s value, but then went down a bit once I reminded the insurance company that a No-Claims discount was applicable. I still have Fully Comp. owing to the prodigious cost of Japanese plastic.

The test involved an inspector confirming that the VIN on the frame was the same as the VIN on the old registration card, and then checking that the lights all worked. After trying and failing to find the lights and indicator switches, he asked me to work the switchgear:

“Is the brake light working?”





“Yes. No. Yes. No. Yes...”

The inspector also passed comment that the bike was “too much big”, meaning that Muggins got to schlep it into the inspection area and out again some 30 seconds later. Nobody passed comment regarding the non-standard exhaust system, and I wasn’t about to point out that it was For Off-Road Use Only™. As I have previously noted, the silencer isn’t overly loud anyway. At 5000rpm it’s no louder than the stock pipe.

A couple of weekends ago I was over at the Aprilia shop in International City for an open day and brunch. Several Harley-Davidsons went on to the dynamometer. They were all extremely loud, and one with its straight-through (and apparently street-legal (yeah, right!)) pipes would have rendered me stone-deaf if I’d not been wearing ear defenders. Instead the sound merely turned my internal organs to jelly. But I digress.

So no complaints so far. I paid my Dh100 for the test, and then moved on to have the insurance document checked. At this point I was asked for a passport copy with valid visa page. I proffered my Emirates ID Card, that important document whose absence will have the Ministry of the Interior “...refuse provide its services to the relevant UAE citizens and residents who did not register...”

The man behind the counter was not interested. I asked what was wrong with the ID card; why it was not acceptable, and he said he didn’t know. This is precisely what I had anticipated, so I produced the passport photocopy.

So I wonder what has happened to:

“The grace period stipulated by the Ministry of the Interior for UAE nationals and residents to obtain and accept the ID will lapse on 22 November [2009]...”


“MOI’s various services provided to individuals throughout the UAE are as follows: All vehicle and driver licensing services...”

OK, so “...residents of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah, only on temporary basis...” are excepted because the EIDA didn’t anticipate everyone rushing to get an ID card as instructed by the - erm - EIDA, and were consequently inundated. But not to accept the document that is designed to replace having to produce a passport and visa copy when it is available is, to my way of thinking, ludicrous.

Given that I only ever used my ID card to get packages off Aramex, and then only because my driving licence wasn’t immediately to hand, it occurs to me that this whole ID card fiasco is probably a waste of time, effort and money. Still, it gives me something the write about.

After handing over my passport copy with valid residence visa page, I went over to the traffic police desk. I was charged Dh130 for a new registration card. No fines. Huzzah! Another mostly satisfied customer.


The opinions expressed in this weblog are the works of the Grumpy Goat, and are not necessarily the opinions shared by any person or organisation who may be referenced. Come to that, the opinions may not even be those of the Grumpy Goat, who could just be playing Devil's Advocate. Some posts may be of parody or satyrical [sic] nature. Nothing herein should be taken too seriously. The Grumpy Goat would prefer that offensive language or opinions not be posted in the comments. Offensive comments may be subject to deletion at the Grumpy Goat's sole discretion. The Grumpy Goat is not responsible for the content of other blogs or websites that are linked from this weblog. No goats were harmed in the making of this blog. Any resemblance to individuals or organisations mentioned herein and those that actually exist may or may not be intentional. May contain nuts.