Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Not all scales stand for justice

I think I might have made a fatal error. Now that I am well on the “closer to fifty than to forty” side of the demographic charts there are things I am supposed to do in order to be sure I stay in good health. The fatal error I refer to is I have started to do those things. I now hurt.

I’m getting ahead of myself. It all started soon after the New Year. No, I did not make a resolution to be healthier but it seemed like everyone one around me at work had. They were all discussing diets and exercise plans and a bunch of people threw some money into a pot to see who could lose the most weight over a period of time. I stayed strictly on the periphery of these activities. Until one day, out of a curiosity born of hearing all the healthy talk, I decided to actually get on a scale.

Now, I am sure I am not alone when I say I prefer my weight to be some sort of theoretical number like something Fibonacci would work with or Euclidean algorithms or the number of fully rational, well-read individuals sitting ringside at a professional wrestling event. I harken back to a time when I was getting a new driver’s license. The DMV lady asked for my weight and when I paused, not so much out of embarrassment but more from genuine ignorance, she smiled and said the blank on the form did not, in fact, say actual weight. So I made up a semi-reasonable amount and that is the number on my license to this day. It was closer to being “actual” at that time, but today, not so much.

Anyway, I got on the scale and was surprised. I mean this was a number I won’t even represent in print using Roman numerals. It was a number larger than I had ever seen before in these circumstances. Don’t get me wrong. Richard Simmons was not going to show up on my doorstep with a work crew dedicated to cutting a hole in the wall big enough to winch me out of in order to get me to a clinic.

The charts for a person my height indicate my weight put me into the overweight category, not the “obese” category nor the “apply for your own zip code” category. However, when I looked at the optimum weight category for a man of my age and height it made me downright nostalgic. I remember being that weight. I was that weight when Bush was President. OK, it was the first George Bush. OK, it was when he was Vice President, but I can still remember it. So back off Jack Lalanne.

While I realize it is quite likely true that a much higher proportion of the general population of the United States is overweight there seems to be too much of an obsession with it. There is a blitzkrieg of marketing aimed at losing weight. There are exercise gurus, diet foods, diet programs, diet supplements, healthy foods, pharmaceuticals, and even a reality television show all revolving around going from bigger to smaller. Doctors have also gotten into the mix. Personally I am convinced they all got together a few years back and added a new sentence to the Hippocratic Oath. After all the “I swears” and “I wills” they stuck in the following: “and, oh, by the way, tell them they’re fat.”

After I saw my weight I decided I needed to just be smarter about things. I drink way too much soda pop. Yes, I know it is bad for you. Both of my daughters have done the science fair project where you put nails in dishes of pop and watch them get eaten away by the corrosive materials. Usually, I just told my kids I wasn’t held together with nine penny nails so I was fine. So the first step was to cut down on consuming the fizzy drinks.

Next I decided to get some purposeful exercise. I am bored with exercise machines and walking miles a day is not easy in Kansas weather so I started playing basketball. I do it by myself but since I am such a crummy shot it is very aerobic because I spend the majority of time running, chasing the ball after it caroms off the backboard at odd angles.

Now that I am so healthy can someone explain why my legs hurt and why I am always hungry. It might just be easier to be fat.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Self-Centered Doesn't Mean Properly Balanced

There are times when a person has to face harsh realities. This is one of those times. I did some soul searching recently and came to a conclusion which does not put me in a good light. I’m selfish. Truly, there are times I am a real clam and just last Wednesday I was a full-fledged mollusk. Wait a minute. I think I got that mixed up. Those things wouldn’t make me a selfish person. Those things would make me a shellfish person. Anyway, I realized I have stronger selfish impulses than I thought. The issue is not that these impulses exist or that I too frequently follow through with them. The friction in my emotional life is I hardly ever allow myself to act on them.

There are the selfish impulses that no member of a civilized society should act upon. Like the ones which occur when the person talking to you is blathering on about some molehill they have morphed into something of Everestian proportions. You know the selfish impulse I mean. The one which plays out in your mind like this: you take a sock full of lime Jell-O and give the person a solid clout across the chops. I would never behave in such a violent manner. (Well, other than that one time I socked a man in Reno just to watch him cry.)

The problem is I am a fully grown responsible upstanding member of society and we all know how much that stinks. There is just enough of the old puritanical work ethic existing in me to cause me to deny myself the base pleasures of life. This means I can’t buy the latest sports car to satisfy my desire to be genuinely cool (people who know me just giggled because the sports car wouldn’t do it). Instead I have to make sure my children have food, shelter and proper medical care. What a bummer.

All whining aside, I have to say I will never be in the major leagues of selfish behavior. I would have to go a long way to rival such top tier selfish people as the stars of reality television shows, your average toddler and what now seems to be the most myopic group of ego-centric folks moving amongst us, politicians.

(There will now be a slight pause as I climb onto my soapbox.)

My father had a way of describing certain folks. “They know the price of everything but the value of nothing.” This describes the Kansas legislature. They are consistently all excited about cutting taxes so they can appear heroic to the people who will vote them back into office. However they fail to realize government needs money in order to do the things which are of genuine value for the greater good of the state.

Case in point: education. The state has cut funding to education. Let me rephrase that. They have cut funding to children. The amount promised to each Kansas student was cut almost 13% and this was after districts made their budgets. (I don’t know about you but if my paycheck was cut 13% I’d have to re-do my budget quite a bit and we’re not just talking about eating out less often.)

The Kansas 2010 Commission was created a few years back, when the Supreme Court called the legislature on the carpet for shirking its Constitutional requirement of adequately funding schools. Its job was to investigate education in Kansas and describe its needs. The legislature authorized the commission and then promptly ignored everything it said. They ignored it because it stated in no uncertain terms that the legislature was derelict in its mandate to properly fund students in this state.

This brings me back to the selfish theme. The people we elect to do the unpleasant things and be the grownups are not squashing their selfish impulses. They want the sports car. They have created over a billion dollars in tax breaks over the last few years (according to the 2010 commission) which would have paid for much of the education budget promised but then reneged upon. I venture to bet that they did so to get re-elected not because it was the responsible thing to do.

My suggestion is if the people in Topeka decide to cut funding to children yet again (which is quite probable) we all get our Jell-O socks and knock some sense into them. I know this is a humor column but this time I’m not kidding.