Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The final weigh in

The movers come on Friday. I boxed up my office and brought it home. The house looks like a car bomb went off.

I always seem to forget how awful packing and moving are. Making decisions is difficult and packing is a million decisions. What to do with stuff- sell, ship, store, carry or toss? Is there going to be enough time? What is the highest priority? Moving is something most people do rarely and so they only get good at it when they're done. It feels a bit like in the movies when night is falling, a zombie attack is imminent and who knows what one has to do to prepare? This is a recurring theme in forecasting, dealing with uncertain situations under a deadline... There's not many zombies, but there is a palpable sense of anticipation.

Right, so everything is getting boxed up and stored and we're moving in with a friend before leaving on a year of travel. This includes the bathroom scale. Nearly every day since moving to Australia I have weighed myself in the morning and here's the final result. Each dot is a time I weighed myself and it shows how I've plumped up (upper dots) and slimmed down (lower dots) over the last three years. Click on the graph to make it bigger.

Weight is a great metaphor for the difference between weather and climate, signal and noise. Going up or down a kilo every so often is really nothing to worry about. Maybe you can even lose or gain two kilos in a day. No big deal. This area is having a flood, that area is having a drought, it happens, it's all part of the natural variability. That said, I always come in high on New Years Day because the holidays are one non-stop meal.

However, only by taking careful measurements over a long time can one see the slow drifting of more significant changes. Maybe the average over the last few months is lower than it has ever been before. It might be a sign that something is going on if I'm setting records day after day. Similarly, one big flood doesn't mean "you're fat", but more floods than usual or a string of record-breaking floods might get you thinking about lifestyle choices.

I've since read that they discourage you from weighing yourself every day, just so it doesn't become an obsession, or put you in a foul mood when there's some random fluctuation. To me, it takes a couple seconds a day and has become a habit. Besides, it's better to know and not worry than to guess and be sensational.

Unfortunately, you're on your own when the zombies attack, I can't help you there.

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