Sunday, 7 February 2016

Feedback on 119155 communications in Sciences

Cutting to the chase: There were a number of minor, human and understandable irritations, only listed here in the spirit of honest feedback:

  • ·         Some links weren’t correct - Pete very responsive on this and put it right within an hour or so.
  • ·         For topic 3 the link was to the 2010 report. Not the later 2013 report.
  • ·         Jacqui sent out emails with a ‘no reply’ email address so I had to trawl through the administrative guide to find her address.
  • ·         It would have been a great help if lectures were available as MP3 or other format.  I had problems downloading lectures to anything but my laptop. My phone is a mainstream smart phone, only 6 months old and it would have been great to be able to listen in the car during the 10+ hours of driving I do a week.
  • ·         Should be able to run a questionnaire to determine natural Belbin team roles
  • ·         Marks in boxes on assignment feedback were out of alignment. Made it hard to read.

My main issue is with the group assignment. The following criticism is not directed personally at my team mates. It is meant more of a criticism of the group project in its present form.

When things started to go wrong in my group I started to communicate my experience to others who had been to university and been in group projects. My personal opinion, I found, was shared by my boss, my colleagues, and friends from many walks of lives, including my yoga classmate Nicola Campbell who happens to specialise in group psychology. Without fail they felt that the group project idea is fraught with problems particularly when peer to peer evaluated. It encouraged cliques and alliances, bought out insecurities and raised anxiety (i.e. all the makings of a reality TV show) and unless properly managed does not create a good learning environment.

 I can hear you ask “why didn’t you go to your tutor”. There are a number of reasons why. It was too late. By the time my team mates went incommunicado during the final editing it was too late to do anything. Everyone had put in so much effort I didn’t want to distract from the final push.  I did share with Jacqui my lack of trust but she didn’t respond so I thought I should just put on my big girl pants and get on with it.

I stood to lose more by being labelled “the troublesome one”. My main goal was and is to pass the course. Since it was apparent I would be able to achieve that by continuing without complaining, I continued without complaining – though my team mates rating (yay for peer evaluation!) and lower overall mark of the group assignment managed to drag my grades down.

Thank you for the course and your effort. It was interesting and I learnt a lot. Pete and Jacqui were really responsive and positive. You bought a lot to the course with your energy and enthusiasm.  Your grade is B- upgradable to A (mirroring the effect of the group assignment on my grades) if you promise to have a serious look at how the teams are created and managed.

Sunday, 31 January 2016


I’m looking at the notes we made back in week 4 or 5 when I asked the team what Belbin roles they thought they were.

X -tina







Monitor evaluator


Team worker






We never met out 4th member – Christina, the Ukranian figure skater, for all we know she could have been the alter-ego of an obese middle-aged white ware salesman. We just guessed Christina’s character from the few emails we had. Who knows how the dynamic would have developed if she had been present.

After spending a bit of time Cherie I have grown to appreciate her enthusiasm – of course she would look at herself and go “yes” that’s me!  I would give a “yes” to her being the Implementer, a coordinator, Monitor-evaluater  and team worker. He experience and confidence with presentation was a real asset to our team. 

Jindina was the member who had the clearest vision of how the report and seminar should read. She set very high standards for herself and our team which hopefully resulted in better marks all around. (smiley face).
Fortunately  we all had a bit of the completer-finisher in us.( I can’t comment on Christina who was overseas when we were completing and finishing) and I think that kept us focused on the goal – to get out report and seminars out in some kind of order.  Probably the worrying and reluctance to delegate caused conflict as we all wanted to be part of the very final part of writing the report.

On reflection  the worst thing about these groups is that you don’t have enough time to iron out the bumps and actually really appreciate your team members and find a fulfilling (both in terms of outputs and personal growth) way of working together.

I seldom have problems in my job either communicating with my team or my customers. Misunderstandings do occur but nowhere near the frequency they occurred in our group. I was the one who outwardly got most upset on more than one occasion with my team members. When I got upset I made sure they knew about it and made sure they clarified what had actually been agreed.  (Except   Christina -  who missed out on the experience of  having me phoning  to say "that's not what we agreed"). I’m a bit of a shaper – inclined to be blunt.  I’m sorry if Jindina and Cherie weren’t comfortable with that because I do feel it was a privilege to work with them.  I think open communication helped us complete and finish to a high standard and personally it gave me a better understanding into myself, the inflexible implementer. 


Belbin, R. M. (2010). Management teams:  Why they succeed or fail. Oxford,
             United Kingdom: Elsevier.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Belbin roles at work - Blog 8

While never forgetting the genuine affection and regard that seems to miraculously prevail at my workplace, I usually refer to the company as a dysfunctional family.  I knew it was going to be interesting to apply the theories of R Meredith Belbin (2010) to see why things did and didn’t work.  As the company has grown, why did the addition of some team members make such a difference and others not?

I realise of course that my curiosity about ideas such as this would probably identify me as a natural resource-investigator.   As the technical support manager, I am a specialist who contributes within a narrow range in company meetings. I am also called on to complete tasks because I follow up and make sure they are done. That would make me an implementer.

The boss, apart from being kind and ethical is extremely sharp.  After some consultation with managers he will formulate and plan and drive it through –he’s a shaper. He chairs management meetings and generally the only person who disagrees with him is the office manager, P. They are a tight team.  P is on the phone all day - a coordinator.  When I ( the implementer who’s inclined to be inflexible) disagree with P we have learnt to not waste time and take it straight to the boss – he is the only one who can tell her she is wrong.

When J, an implementer joined the team as inventory manager he made a huge impact. Of Chinese decent, he works within the existing structure. He truly works for the company.  He is hard working and well liked. He was the in-house implementer we had been lacking. He was followed by another implementer, a sales manager.

For a few years there was a product manager who was a resource-investigator/ shaper. In the end his frustration motivated him to leave and start his own successful company.  He was replaced by an implementer who is much more well-liked and effective in the role.

Plants don’t seem to thrive very well in my work family though the hardware support manager puts out the odd tendril which is swiftly put into practice by one of the many implementers.  As a small business to business company, our success is determined by our customers.  I think they like dealing with a friendly helpful company, made up mostly of extroverts.  After listening to Susan Cain on the power of introverts I couldn’t help wondering if the company might be more functional if we encouraged our thinkers more and spent less time competing for air space and laughs.


Belbin, R. M. (2010). Management teams:  Why they succeed or fail. Oxford,                                     United Kingdom: Elsevier.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Blog 7 - Cheers for Beers

There is nothing like real ale for bringing out pontification. The idea posited down at vulture’s lane was that beer was a form of food and that it features strongly in human evolution because of its storage and socially conducive characteristics. Could beer actually be good for you? I wasn’t surprised, when I went in search of scholarly resources, to find that a lot of research had been done on it.

Beer - Health and Nutrition (Bamforth, 2004) provided most of the answers:  Beer provides calories and in out obesogenic environment that probably is not a good thing. Through historically it has been important source of energy. The boiling and hopping make it safer than drinking unpurified water.This may explain why in Great Britain in the 17th century people scarcely drank water. It provides vitamins (good source of vitamin B6, B12  and Folate) and minerals (Potassium, Magnesium and selenium)(Bamforth, 2004).

If you study the plethora (by definition: a very large amount or number: an amount that is much greater than what is necessary) of nutritional articles on the internet you will notice 2 recurring themes:
  1. A compound contained in the food or drink that has almost magical health giving properties. I call it the “cult of the superfood”. What could sound more esoteric that Xanthoumol. Found in hops therefore in beer - quantity depending on how it was made.The benefits of Xanthoumol are that it inhibits bone re-absorption – good news for women over 50 when bone density decreases - and it reduces Atherosclerosis (cardio vascular disease)
  2.    Yes (insert food or drink of your choice) is good for you – in moderation. The evidence is that beer is no exception to this golden rule. In moderate amounts it lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s and is better than water for flushing kidney stones.

Alcohol is good for mind and spirit. It relaxes and sedates (Bamforth, 2004). Alcohol has been classed as carcinogenic by the WHO but  the link is nowhere near as strong as for smoking (Stuttaford, 1997). In fact the phytoestrogens in beer have been shown to counter breast and prostate cancer (Bamforth, 2004). The problem is that alcohol affects judgement and while enjoying a fine ale and convivial company, discussing the health giving properties of beer your idea of what is moderate may become extremely lenient.


Bamforth, C. W. (2004). Beer Health and Nutrition. Oxford: Blackwell.

Stuttaford, T. (1997). To Your good Health! The wise drinkers guide. London: Faber and Faber.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Blog 6 - you are what you eat

I felt a flu coming on and didn’t want to eat dairy or meat. I tried to keep a straight face while asking in the Taupo cafe what the options were for gluten free vegan breakfasts.  I almost added “and in case you’re wondering, yes, I am from Ponsonby”.

I am gluten free by choice rather than Celiac. It started as a bit of a parlour game at a party. One of the guests, a nutritionist, started giving us free consultations. After looking at my waistline she suggested I give up gluten, the protein found in wheat products. Like Jodi Corbit (Telis, 2014) a month after I stopped eating gluten I had lost weight and I felt emotionally uplifted. That was 4 years ago and apart from the occasional dalliance I haven’t looked back.

Do I feel better (clearer head and more energy) because not eating gluten generally means eating less cakes, biscuits and white bread? How do we measure over- all mood? What do the scientists say about how gluten affects it?

The Profile of mood states (POMS) questionnaire is a subjective measure of your mood states (McNair & Heuchert, 2007). It measures tension, depression, anger, fatigue, confusion and vigour. Anita C Carr (2012) found many documented cases where there was a clear link to between feeling  worse (using POMS questionnaire) and eating gluten. Carr suggests that the evidence is so strong that it warrants a study into whether the New Zealand wheat based diet is a factor in our high youth suicide rate.  Wow!

Everyday observation makes it clear that the response to gluten is not the same for everyone.  There is also so much evidence of other factors affecting mental health (Telis, 2014). Measuring my own mood, now that I am 99% gluten free, I can see that there are other dietary choices that affect how I feel.  I feel better when I am eating unprocessed food and plenty of fruit and veg at regular intervals. In turn that favourably affects my weight which affects my mood – all good for having a sense of humour about yourself when you request gluten-free paleo-friendly low-fat options down at the lunch bar.

Carr, A. C. (2012). Depressed mood associated with gluten sensitivity—resolution of symptoms with a gluten-free diet The New Zealand Medical Journal, 125(1366), 81-82.
McNair, D., & Heuchert, J. (2007). Profile of Mood States technical update. North Tonawanda: Multi-Health Systems.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

The bones of the matter - Blog 5

We have all heard of the French Paradox – How do french women stay so impossibly slim on a diet based on wine, cheese and butter? Have you heard about the Asian paradox?  Given the connection between dairy products,  calcium intake, bone density and hip fractures, how is it that Asians,  who have low dairy and low calcium diets,  have such a low risk of hip fracture (Anderson & Sjöberg, 2001).

In a population, hip fractures are easier to measure than bone density consequently there is more data on it. You need to fall (or have impact) and have low bone density to fracture your hip. Factors like exercise (and presumably alcohol consumption) affect how much falling goes on. The serious news: Hip fractures are to be avoided if you are over 65 as it significantly increases your chance of dying  in the following year (Walsh, 2011).

Bones do need calcium, along with phosphorus (eggs are a good source) and Vitamin D (Oily fish)(Harvard Medical School, 20013). Dairy products supply up to ¾ of our dietary calcium. For women in my age group it is virtually impossible to get the recommended daily  allowance  (now known as the DRI) of 1000 - 1300 mg (depends on who you ask) without dairy -  1 cup milk has 400mg, of yoghurt 300mg while 1 cup of broccoli  has 60mg,  10 almonds, 30mg (NZ Nutrition Foundation, 2014). Could Asians be getting away with a calcium intake way below the DRI because it’s not the only thing going on (Harvard Medical School, 20013).

There is definitely something questionable about the recommendations which soar for older women  (NZ Nutrition Foundation, 2014). Bone density does decrease with age and there is a link between intakes <400mg per day and fractures (Warensjö et al., 2011). However it looks doubtful that higher (1000- 1300mg) calcium intake is the right approach. In fact exercise seems to be the strongest influence on reducing hip fracture (Kannus, 1999).

While it is indisputable that  the Kneebone’s connected to the thigh bone and the thigh bone’s connected to the hip bone, the hip bone’s connection to our leading national industry does cry out (like a bobby calf, separated from its mother) for more research.

In my next blog: How, according to Fonterra, milk can make you more muscular and attractive to the opposite sex (when taken in conjunction with an active lifestyle).

Anderson, J. J. B., & Sjöberg, H. E. (2001). Dietary calcium and bone health in the elderly: uncertainties about recommendations. Nutritional Research, 21(1-2), 263-268.
Harvard Medical School. (20013). What you need to know about Calcium. Retrieved from
Kannus, P. (1999). Preventing osteoporosis, falls, and fractures among elderly people. The British Medical Journal, 318(7178), 205-2016.
NZ Nutrition Foundation. (2014). Calcium. Retrieved from
Walsh, N. (2011). Mortality High in Year After Hip Fracture. Retrieved from
Warensjö, E., Byberg, L., Melhus, H., Gedeborg, R., Mallmin, H., Wolk, A., & Michaëlsson, K. (2011). Dietary calcium intake and risk of fracture and osteoporosis: prospective longitudinal cohort study. Retrieved from

Saturday, 12 December 2015

The place of Christmas in an Obesogenic environment

Like most people I’m thinking about Christmas and food.  That’s either because

a) Like my family, Christmas involves getting together to share a lot of yummy food or
b) in this part of the world it signals the beginning of the holidays and getting into the swimsuit. It is a time of regretting all the food we have been eating through the year or
c) we have a love/hate relationship with food based on a) and b) above

Ah yes ….. our relationship with food. We know that losing weight is an energy in/energy out equation and that what it boils down to is how much we eat and how much we move. An article by Mathew Haines (2015) in the Herald grabbed my attention. Not because it was rocket science but because what it said very succinctly is just so obvious:  We’ve evolved with a metabolism that makes us store fat. The problem is that there aren’t enough controls stopping us from overeating. If we live in an obesogenic environment we cannot use our instincts to tell us how much to eat. We must use our intellect. This, I thought, has got to be a key concept to anyone who wants to control their weight.

If David visits Houston (Sallis, 2009).

Looking at the obesogenic environment looks at the organisational and physical environment and how ethnicity and psychological and social factors affect our food and movement decisions (Sallis, 2009). The trends in the graphs below are alarming. For Pacific people the current obesity rate, according to the Ministry of social Development (2010) is 65% and rising. Aside from the personal cost, the social and financial costs are of great concern. As we struggle to deal with the epidemic we can expect the word “obesogenic” to become part of the vernacular.

Age-standardised prevalence of obesity, total population aged 15 years and over, by sex, 1997, 2002/2003 and 2006/2007

Age-standardised prevalence of obesity, population aged 15 years and over, by ethnic group, 1997, 2002/2003 and 2006/2007
Source: Ministry of Health (Ministry for Social development, 2010)

How does Christmas feature in an obesogenic environment?  Research done in Sweden (I think we can remove the swimsuit factor) indicates that non obese people put on weight over Christmas (Andersson & Rössner, 1992).  The good tidings are if that if you are already obese then Christmas doesn’t make you gain weight. So, you can relax. Enjoy your eating and drinking. There’s always the New Year to think about your place in an obesogenic world.

Andersson, I., & Rössner, S. (1992). The Christmas factor in obesity therapy. Retrieved from
Haines, M. (2015, December 3). Our bodies work against us. The New Zealand Herald, p. 23.
Ministry for Social development. (2010). 2010: The Social Report. Retrieved from

Sallis, J. (2009). Using Research to Create a Less Obesogenic World. Santiago State University. Retrieved from