Anhydrous Wit

Are you pondering what I'm pondering?

Friday, March 30, 2007

A Weighty Issue

I had my annual physical a month ago. All of my numbers were relatively unchanged (statistically insignificant differences). One curious observation is that, after a year of eating oatmeal for breakfast, my cholesterol went up two points. If you believe the commercials aired by a brand name oatmeal company, my cholesterol was supposed to drop (and drop significantly). Conversely, when the cheesesteak place was still open, and I ate a greasy, fatty, fried-meat-and-cheesy sandwich every Friday for a year, my cholesterol dropped ten points. Is that significant?

On Monday, Boss told us about an idea he had: a weight-loss challenge among managers. He thinks that, if we lose weight, we'll set an example for our hourly employees. (He wants to better their health by encouraging them to quit smoking or drinking.) I dislike the challenge in principle and in practice. First of all, I might have my own health goals. Who is he to arbitrarily decide that weight should be the deciding factor? Second, the sample of management employees is weighted (so to speak) to the benefit of two individuals, so the rest of us would have almost no chance of "winning" this loss.

One of Boss's suggestions was for all of us to start running. Boss is already a runner, so this wouldn't be fair. After five minutes, I'd be "huffing and puffing like a chubby boy" (Pinky & the Brain). I'd be lucky to finish a mile in ten minutes (my high school time). However, I'm pretty sure I could walk circles around my coworkers. I won't even suggest that Ob and (hmm-hmm, still waiting for nickname suggestions, thank you) take up jogging. Adding force to their corpulence would play hell with their knees.

My goal is to get thinner, not to lose weight. When I started working out, my weight went up. This is because muscle is denser than fat, so I was adding heavier tissue than I was losing. From February to mid-March this year, I lost nine pounds. I've never lost that much before, and I can't think of what I did that might have contributed. Still, I'm not able to throw away my "fat pants" and buy new ones, so weight isn't my issue.

I overheard a student (a male in his very early twenties) in my CAD class say that he has gone back to working out to get in shape and that he has dropped eight pounds to 192. This guy is about my height and seems pretty thin. Setting 192 lbs. as a goal for me would be attainable by starving myself. Even 200 lbs. is off at the horizon. Boss says he is 5'11" and weighs 165 lbs. (but was as low as 147 lbs. when training for a marathon). He is toothpick-thin compared to me. Ob and _____ are like boulders. You can't compare the four of us to each other and say that weight loss would work.

Now compare me to my brothers. Both of them are visibly fatter than I. Both of them have large waist sizes (and, for the one of them I've always thought of as "the thin one", this is surprising). We are a better set of individuals to compare with a particular exercise goal.

I have two years until my next high school class reunion. (Betty, will you go this time, or will you be visiting Ireland again?) That seems a reasonable time in which to achieve becoming thinner. I've stopped buying salty snacks, greatly reduced my consumption of sodas, and started eating more fruit (although reducing ice cream consumption is of more considerable difficulty). The even more difficult, yet more effective, step is to reduce my portion size. I ought to eat less, but how do I train my brain to realize that my stomach doesn't need seconds (or large firsts)?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Feed Me!

In the mystery I am reading now (Murder at the Opera by Margaret Truman, yes, the President's daughter), I saw a line I totally agree with. "Everything these days on cable news shows seemed to be 'breaking news'."

As I have mentioned before, my gym has two TV's in the exercise area, and they always are tuned one of the cable news channels. (Which is just as well because, if they had on something like Scooby-Doo, I'd do more watching than working out.) They vary the channels, but none of them seems particularly informative. One network seems to talk about celebrities, not news. (Maybe I just happen to be in the gym during a non-news program.) Another always has a panel discussing something. (My workout station isn't close enough for me to read the closed captioning.) A third network (and do we really need this many channels for news?) has a program during which the "reporter" offers his opinion (called "My View" or "My Take" or "I Did it My Way" or something). When are they actually going to get around to telling us what happened in the world today?

Lest you think I reserve my comments to news networks, I also have a beef with The Weather Channel. Have you tuned in lately? They have programs about natural disasters. They have programs about storm damage. They have male/female duos chatting and interacting, much like the daily morning programs on the three traditional networks. They used to offer a gardening segment. They claim to have "Local on the 8's" (with the "current [weather] conditions in your area"), but I'm more likely to see one of those programs when I tune in. Whatever happened to the weather?

Before I get too far off track, I'll get to the gist of this post and explain the title. I have noticed, on one of the "news" channels, a commercial for a weight-loss "program" (i.e. eat the tiny portions we give you and nothing else) marketed toward men. For "just" or "only" $10.00 per day, they'll send you breakfast, lunch, dinner, and one dessert.

Now this is more affordable than eating every meal at a restaurant (especially in certain parts of the country), but let's do the math. Ten dollars each day adds up to $280 to $310 per month. I don't spend that much on groceries each month, and I have a lot more food in my kitchen. Why should I pay someone to mail me food, just to receive less than I could make myself? This is akin to one of those "gourmet" restaurants which serves a "medallion" of meat, a couple of undercooked green beans, and a squirt of "secret sauce" artfully arranged on a plate the size of Wyoming.

To quote Clara Peller, "Where's the beef?"

Monday, March 26, 2007

Clean vs. Dirty

Shh! I'm writing this at work. Don't tell Boss.

Part of our grounds care duties involves periodic power washing of sidewalks. Usually it is prior to a special event or school opening, etc. Sometimes we get graffiti. Increasingly, students are advertising programs, plays, presentations, etc.

Today, we received a work order which reads, "Clean offensive chalk drawing in front of building."

Hmm. That's a nice change of pace. Usually, the offensive chalk drawings are dirty.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Comparison Shopping

While waiting for a friend doing business at a convenience store, I looked through the window and observed that a carton of brand-name cigarettes costs $35. This is such a waste of one's money.

First off, I spend a little less than that to refuel my car (at current prices). I wonder how long a tank of gas lasts me vs. a carton of cigarettes lasts the average smoker?

Second, $35 is how much I spend to renew my annual membership with PBS. How many hours do I get of commercial-free programming each year vs. the duration of cigarettes before the carton is empty? Actually, that should be simple to figure out. Multiply five minutes per cigarette (the amount of time it took my dad to complete one) by the number of cigarettes in a pack by the number of packs in a carton. (Of course, not being a smoker myself, I never cared to ascertain how many cigarettes in a carton, or else I'd do the math for you.)


I usually have my car radio tuned to the local affiliate of National Public Radio. On the way to and from work, I get a few minutes of their news programs (although, if I'm lucky enough to leave work on time, I enjoy some of the classical music they have on during the day). The local station breaks in to the national feed periodically to add weather, local or state news of interest, etc.

Yesterday morning, a local reporter (probably a journalism major at NMSU) told me about the men's basketball team's journey to the first round of the western conference NCAA playoffs in Spokane, Washington (5:35 p.m. MDT today, if it happens to be on in your area). Unfortunately for both him and you, the written word doesn't always look like the spoken word sounds. You can't hear from my typing that he pronounced the city's name as it is spelled phonetically; he rhymed it with candy cane.

Then, in the afternoon, a different announcer (also a student) read a promo for an upcoming PBS program about Joan of Arc (Jean D'Arc, for those of you even more persnickety than I) and her trial on the charge of hearsay. "Wait a minute," I thought, "You can't be charged with.... Oh, ‘heresy'!"

And these announcements are made by an affiliate of a network that is supposed to be a cultural, scientific, political, humanistic, and everything else -al or -ic paragon? I hope the general manager wasn't listening at those times. Actually, I hope he was, so he can tell his staff to proofread (or whatever you do with audio) before airing the segments.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Death of the Front Porch

When I was little, my mother and I used to eat our lunches on the front porch in the summer. (I can't remember at all where my older brothers were, but this is my blog, so it doesn't really matter.) Because of the shrubs in front of the porch, we could see people walking by, but they couldn't see us. It was kind of a game for us. We also read while we ate because we both were (and still are) avid readers. To this day, a baloney sandwich (or peanut butter and jelly) and barbecue Fritos is one of my favorite meals. One day, my mom grabbed a tartan throw to keep us warm, and we sat really close, and we watched the thunderstorm around us.

People don't sit on their front porches any more. Every summer, there is a National Night Out, to encourage people to sit on their porches and/or talk to their neighbors. Why don't people sit outside any more? I blame air conditioning.

If you read enough books, particularly those written by Southerners (such as Eudora Welty, one of my favorite storytellers), you'll come across passages about how the family would sit on the porch every evening and talk or play music or whatever. None of these books is written in the current day; they are all memoirs or stories set "way back when". The reason people would sit outside was because they didn't have air conditioning, and, late in the day, the house would be hotter than the surrounding air, and there was a breeze, or at least a chance of one, outside.

We had central air conditioning, but my mother didn't want to turn it on until we were dripping sweat. I'd spend the evening outside, playing Wiffle Ball with my best friend (we had a lot of "ghost runners" on our teams) or even throwing a Frisbee with my brothers. (Wait. Where did they come from?)

Nowadays, people get home and lock themselves inside a temperature controlled box with their televisions or video games. Gone are the conversations, evening constitutionals, and porch gliders with comfortable cushions.

I like to sit on my veranda when the weather is nice. (I take advantage of the weather because it gets so hot here in the summer.) I read until it's too dark to see. I watch traffic going by. I enjoy the breeze. I chat with my neighbors. I watch my plants grow. If I sit really still, I can hear the hummingbirds' wings. Sometimes, I even eat a baloney sandwich and barbecue Fritos.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The First Day of Summer

... was last Tuesday, March 6. I base it on the observation that, when I got into my car at the end of the workday, the steering wheel was hot to the touch (not too hot to touch, but hot nonetheless). Wasn't it just over two weeks ago that I declared it to be spring? Such is life in the desert.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Color Me Unimpressed

A few years ago, our building at work (an old airplane hanger) was insulated. They sprayed on a foam then painted it. I am very glad they painted it. The foam itself was bright yellow. Because of the shape of our building, it looked for a while like we worked inside a giant Twinkie. People were going around whistling "We All Live in a Yellow Submarine".

Near my home, there's an old shopping center that was converted to an office complex. When I was in college, it was painted screaming rose-pink. Perhaps someone thought, "Gee, if the mountains look so pretty at sunset, wouldn't it be wonderful for this building to look like that all the time?" Short answer: NO. Over the years, sunlight has faded it to a more tolerable tint. It's still pink, but it's not eye-banging any more.

They have just started repainting my condo. I don't know who decided that it needs it, but it comes under "general maintenance", so there wasn't a vote at the annual meeting. We didn't even get to decide on the colors. I know who did, though -- unfortunately. I have seen the inside of her condo. It's all screaming orange and yellow and copper. (She must be an autumn.)

I told her that I was concerned about the paint color. I moved into a white building and loved the fact that it didn't look like every other beige/tan/ecru/dirt colored building in town. She said it wouldn't and showed me the colors she had chosen. The walls are to be what still looks like a tan variation to me. The accents are to be what she called "greenish gray", which she said would look wonderful contrasting with the clay tile roof and complement my planters on the veranda. (Want to bet it doesn't turn out that way?) She diplomatically allowed me to keep my unit of the condo white, as I am set back on the veranda, so there is enough visual separation and allowance for my unit to be considered a separate entity.

They started the painting this week. That "greenish gray"? It looks more like the color of wet concrete. And the not-beige/tan/ecru/dirt? It is a very pale orange. (I should have known it would be orange.) It looks like we'll be living in a Creamsicle.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Fathers' Day

About a month after my father died, an employee's father died. About a month after that, another employee's father died. At that point, I thought, "Well, it's going to be a crappy Fathers' Day this year."

Then I started thinking that I'm not alone. The father of a coworker six months younger than me died a few years ago, and that man was younger than my father. My dad's older brother died several years ago. (As you can see, longevity is poor on that side of my family, especially for the smokers.) In fact, I have a friend who lost both of his parents when he was in his twenties. This sounds like an odd sort of club I'm assembling.

Unfortunately, I have nominations for even younger members. I received a Christmas card from a woman I met in my second year of college. Her husband died in a car wreck last year, making her a widow and single mother of a 21-month-old girl. The brother-in-law of one of my best friends died two weeks ago when his helicopter crashed in Afghanistan. He (my age) left behind a widow, an ex-wife, and two children: an eight year old boy and a daughter who will never know her father because she is only seven months old.

I'm on the verge of being sappy and maudlin and telling you all to strengthen relationships with people you love because you never know how much time you have. However, that would be a downer, and it isn't what I intend. I mean this to be more of a "realize how special you are and how many people you touch" kind of message. Enjoy and love the people in your lives because they enjoy and love you. And, this Fathers' Day, raise a glass to your father and all the fathers you know or have known. I sure will.