Every morning, as part of my morning exercise regimen, I climb up the back stairs of the firm to the fifth floor. Before I begin, I take a look all the way to the top, because the view reminds me of the movie Vertigo. I crane my neck upward, get a little dizzy, then begin my trudge upward.
Monthly Archives: February 2013
Get Up, Stand Up
They’ve come out with another study that will make us all feel guilty and worried about our lifestyles. This one concludes that sitting down can be bad for you.
It’s true. According to the report, sitting down too much increases your chances of heart disease, blood clots in the brain, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. The study find a link between sitting down and glucose and fatty acids in the blood that are chemical markers for diabetes. Spending just another 90 minutes standing every day, the study concludes, can significantly reduce your chance of developing diabetes. In addition, because your metabolism is at its lowest when you are sitting on your duff, standing increases your metabolism, requires you to use more of your muscles, and will help you lose weight. (We can all expect to begin to see TV commercials in the near future advertising the “[insert celebrity name here] Stand Up Diet” and including testimonials by ordinary people who claim that standing has changed their lives.)
The problem, of course, is that many of us have office jobs that involve sitting. Some people use standing desks — I’m thinking of the Biking Brewer here — but I’m not sure how many employers are going to toss their vast collections of sit-down desks, cubicles, chairs, and tables and spend the money to re-equip their offices with stand-up replacements. So, we all need to figure out ways to spend less time seated on our seats. Walking to a co-worker’s office rather than calling them is one option. Another is to drink lots of water so that you must rise from your chair to make regular trips to the restroom. Yet another is to walk somewhere a few blocks away over the lunch hour, or stand when you are talking to your friend rather than plopping down butt-first somewhere.
It’s tempting to sit on our tushes on a comfortable chair. After all, what’s the human keister for if not a good sit? But Bob Marley apparently had it right: “Get up, stand up” is the way to go.
The Big Ten Tightens Up
This year’s Big Ten has got to be the most entertaining basketball conference in years — and, perhaps, the best conference as well.
Over the past few days, the top three teams in the conference — Indiana, Michigan State, and Michigan — all have lost. Ohio State’s victory over Michigan State on Sunday wasn’t that much of an upset, but Minnesota’s win over top-ranked Indiana last night was a real surprise, and Penn State’s victory tonight over Michigan, in a game in which Michigan frittered away a double-digit lead, is an absolute shocker. Before that game, Penn State hadn’t won a conference game all year. As a result of the upsets, Indiana leads the conference race with three losses, Michigan State and steady Wisconsin are right behind with four losses, and Ohio State and stumbling Michigan are one game farther back.
College basketball is a lot of fun because the players are kids, the students watching the game are into it, and emotion can play a significant role. When a conference has have a bunch of very good teams, some good teams, and some teams that can rise to the occasion when their home court advantage comes into play, you get lots of surprises and unexpectedly close games. The last few games of the conference regular season over the next week and a half are likely to be a free-for-all. If a team like Ohio State wants to stay in contention, it had better be ready to play every game against every opponent — starting tomorrow night, when it travels to Evanston to play Northwestern.
After the regular season finally ends, we’ll have the Big Ten Tournament. There’s a reason why this year’s tournament is the first one ever to be sold out: it should be a very good show.
Air Out Of The Balloon
The story about the crash of a hot air balloon near Luxor, Egypt — an incident that killed 19 people and seriously injured several others — is one of those odd, faraway stories that nevertheless hits home for me.
I’ve never been in a hot air balloon, nor have I ever been to Luxor, where the fabulous Valley of the Kings is located. But, I could very easily see myself visiting Egyptian antiquities and being tempted to take a balloon ride that would allow me to get a bird’s-eye view of all of the sites. Such tourist options — like the opportunity to go parasailing in the Caribbean, or go skydiving, or engage in similar kinds of novel vacation activities — are so commonplace that we tend to assume that they are extraordinarily safe. But, of course, things can go wrong, and if they go wrong when you are in an unsupported balloon a hundred yards in the air the consequences are more likely to be devastating than if they go wrong when your feet are on the ground.
The Luxor balloon was close to landing when a rope got wrapped around a fuel tube and severed it, causing a fire. The fire produced heat that rose into the balloon, causing it to shoot up into the air. Some passengers jumped out; others remained helplessly on board as the balloon rocketed skyward, the gas canister exploded, and the balloon then plummeted to the ground.
Ever since I went snowmobiling without knowing what I was doing, and realized that I could easily kill or seriously hurt myself as a result, I’ve been very stodgy and boring about such activities. There is risk in everything we do, of course, but some risks have to be assumed, whereas others are only optional. I’m sure that, if I were one of the unlucky tourists on that ill-fated Luxor ride, as the doomed balloon was falling downward I would be thinking: “Why in the hell did I ever decide to do this?”
Chuck E. Cheese’s No More
Richard gave Kish and me a great Christmas present this past year. He collected lots of our old photos, which otherwise were gathering dust in the basement, and had them scanned and put into electronic photo albums that we can access with the touch of a button.
It’s been hilarious looking back through the photos, remembering moments when the boys were little — and also recalling things that we’ve tried to put out of our minds, like kid birthday parties at places like Chuck E. Cheese’s. I used to dread those parties, with hyped-up kids shrieking, the smell of cheese and cake and sugary drinks, and the overwhelming sensory effect of brightly colored decors and clanging games and costumed characters. This picture of one of Russell’s parties, with his friends and cousins when they were little tykes, brought it all back.
I’m happy to say that it’s been more than a decade since I set foot in a Chuck E. Cheese’s. I could easily go another decade, too.
Michelle Obama And The Oscars
On Sunday’s Oscars broadcast, First Lady Michelle Obama was the surprise presenter of the award for Best Picture. What isn’t a surprise is that, in the wake of the Academy Awards show, some people have criticized her appearance as frivolous and not befitting her role as First Lady.
I’m heartily sick and tired of this kind of sanctimonious stuff. I don’t see anything wrong with a First Lady participating in the Academy Awards broadcast if she wants to do so (although I’m not sure that, if I were the First Gentleman, I’d want to be part of the phony, kissy-face Hollywood scene). It’s not as if Michelle Obama — or any other First Lady — is expected to be pondering weighty affairs of state at all hours of the day and night. Even her husband, who unlike Michelle Obama was elected to his current leadership position, is not begrudged an occasional vacation, golf outing, or basketball game. Why should anyone care if the First Lady wants to spend an hour of her time appearing on an awards show?
People who think First Ladies should act like Mamie Eisenhower are kidding themselves. The line between politicians and celebrities has long since been blurred to non-existence. Presidents and presidential candidates and First Ladies have been appearing on talk shows for years now; how is the Oscars broadcast materially different? Hollywood is one of America’s most successful industries, one that employs a lot of people and generates a lot of income. Would people object if the First Lady presented an award to, say, the Teacher of the Year or recognized the owner of a successful business that opened a new plant? If not, why object to the First Lady’s acknowledgement of the film industry?
In our struggling country, Michelle Obama’s decision to present the Best Picture Oscar is the least of our concerns. If the First Lady wants to share a bit in the glitz and glamor of Oscar Night, I’m not troubled by her decision. Now, can we start talking about the real, important issues of the day?
Russell will be coming home for a few days later this week. It will be good to see him — and to subject him to the initial parental once-over.
If you’re a parent, you know what I mean. When your children leave home and you see them only once in a while, you can’t help but give their familiar faces some careful scrutiny the next time you see them. The passage of time always brings a fresh perspective. Usually my reaction is: they look and act so much older, like the adults they have become. The chubby cheeks and white-blond hair of childhood are long gone, replaced by the visage of a mature, functioning twenty-something who is in control of his life.
With this visit, though, I suddenly realize that the tables may be turning. When I was a twenty-something living in D.C. and came home for a visit, I remember looking at my parents and thinking that they were the ones who were looking older — a bit grayer, a bit more lined, a bit more stooped, and a bit more deliberate in their actions with an occasional wince as they rose from the kitchen table after dinner. When Richard and Russell come home for their occasional visits these days, will they now be checking us out and seeing those telltale signs of age?
I’m going to have to pay more attention when I look in the mirror this morning as I get ready for work.
When Can You Just Let Electronic Conversations End?
I wasn’t great with the traditional etiquette of the Emily Post and Miss Manners variety, but I’m hopelessly mystified by the challenge of the proper rules of etiquette for our digital age.
Consider electronic writing — emails and texts — for example. In the old days, when you wrote a letter to a friend, you expected that someday you would get a letter in response. Do the same rules apply to email and texts? With email and texting being virtually instantaneous, is there an expected response time after which you need to apologize and offer a reason for not responding sooner? In my view, often the speed of a response isn’t as important as getting an answer that is thoughtful — and thoughtfulness usually takes time. But if I’m infuriating someone because I haven’t responded within two hours, I’d sure like to know that.
When can you just let an electronic conversation end, and when do you have to respond with yet another message? If I send an email and get a response that is completely satisfactory, is it rude to not respond with a “Thanks!”? It seems silly to constantly be sending “Thanks!” emails, but I’ll do it if that is the expected etiquette these days. For that matter, if you go with the “Thanks!” response, must you include the exclamation point? And is it dismissive or demeaning if you go with “thx” rather than the full, written out “Thanks!”?
I pose such questions because I really want to know if I am inadvertently being a thoughtless jerk in my handling of these nettlesome electronic conversations. If I’m going to be a thoughtless jerk, I’d rather do so intentionally.
The Pointed Sign-Twirling Guy
One of my more frequently traveled routes in Columbus takes me past a shopping center with a business that has “Liberty” in the name. Usually when I drive by, there’s a guy out by the road wearing a Statue of Liberty costume — a foam crown, a green gown, and green face paint — using a pointed sign with an arrow to try to entice motorists to visit the “Liberty” business.
It’s hard to believe that the presence of a guy twirling a sign and wearing a Liberty costume would cause a passing motorist to make the snap decision to turn in and visit the business. There must be a lot of impulsive drivers out there, though, because you see the sign-twirling guys everywhere, flipping their signs, tossing them in the air, and using them to make intricate dance moves with varying degrees of proficiency. Do they have to go through some kind of training before they head out to the roadway? In any case, it wouldn’t be a very attractive job — being outside next to a road in all kinds of weather, breathing the exhaust fumes, wearing an embarrassing costume, and enduring the rude comments of some passersby.
When I was stopped at a traffic light next to the shopping center on Saturday, the Statute of Liberty sign-twirling guy was sitting at the bus stop. I took a good look at him, and realized with the start that he was probably in his late 30s. He was still wearing his costume and was waiting patiently for his bus. I found myself wondering if he took the job because he couldn’t find anything else, or whether this gig was a second job that he worked on the weekend to help provide for his family. I felt sorry for him, but in this economy a job is a job.
Girl Scout Cookies, Here And Gone
Today we got our order of Girl Scout Cookies, and it made me think that girl scout cookies must be the strangest product ever marketed.
What other product do you buy primarily because of guilt? That eager, fresh-faced girl from the neighborhood shows up at the front door, and you feel that you just have to buy something from her or you’re not a real American. This year, it was six boxes of the cookies.
And then, as soon as the cookies are delivered to your house, you try to figure out the quickest way to get them out of the house. This year, Kish decreed that when the cookies came we need to get the Thin Mints, Shortbreads, and Samoas out of the temptation zone. So, some of the boxes will be shipped out to Richard, some to Russell, and some will make their way to the coffee station on the 5th floor of the 68 building, where the ravenous secretaries and attorneys would consume just about anything dusted in sugar or coated in chocolate.
Handling The Sunday Curse (II)
The Sunday curse has finally been exorcised!
Today, the Buckeyes played a tough game in the second half. After trailing by six at halftime, the Buckeyes reacted to a well-timed timeout by coach Thad Matta, ratcheted down on defense, and played a great second stanza. Riding a career performance from Aaron Craft — who simply would not be denied on his drives to the hoop — the Buckeyes topped no. 4 Michigan State, 68-60. Evan Ravenel, Sam Thompson, Deshaun Thomas, and Amir Williams played very well. Buckeyes fans can hope that this team is starting to find its heart.
The win gives the Buckeyes 20 wins for the year, and also means that they will have a winning record in the very tough Big Ten. There’s still a long way to go, but beating Michigan State is a huge win for Ohio State. Great win, Buckeyes! Now, keep it up!
Guam Cats, Beware! Toxic Mice Are In The Air!
Brown snakes are overrunning Guam. They came to the island aboard U.S. ships after World War II. Now they are multiplying like crazy, have killed off virtually every native species of bird, and are biting humans and wrecking power lines. As a result, Guam’s jungle areas are coated with spider webs, because the birds that normally would eat the spiders aren’t there to keep the spiders in check.
Guam’s snake infestation is giving Hawaii the heebie-jeebies. If a pregnant brown snake, or a mating pair of snakes, hitched a ride on a boat and landed in the snakeless Hawaiian Islands, Hawaii’s beautiful bird population — which has no fear of snakes — could be decimated.
Guam officials are concerned that the brown snake problem could hurt Guam’s reputation as a tourist destination. No kidding! Guam sounds like a nightmare. If your small island is infested with biting snakes and spiders, you’ve already managed to creep out the vast majority of humans. All Guam needs to do to complete the hair-raising, creepy-crawlie trifecta is to throw some scorpions into the mix.
The U.S. government has come up with a drastic solution to Guam’s brown snake problem. It will drop dead mice laced with painkillers over the island’s jungles. The theory is that the brown snakes will eat the mice and die by the score. Presumably, the government has some reason to believe that other mice-eating creatures won’t gobble down the tainted mice.
I’m not so sure — and I therefore composed this bit of doggerel:
Brown snakes hitched a ride to Guam, hoping to find some lebensraum
They bred and grew to levels absurd, ’til little Guam had not a bird
And as the bird population ebbed, the isle became more spider-webbed
Then Uncle Sam said it’d help poor Guam, by inventing a toxic mice bomb
So, cats of Guam! Good cats, beware! Toxic mice are in the air!
Handling The Sunday Curse
This afternoon the basketball Buckeyes will play the Michigan State Spartans at the Schott. I’ll watch it, but I’m kind of dreading it.
Lately, Sundays have not been kind to the Buckeyes. Two Sundays ago, the number one-ranked Indiana Hoosiers came to the Schott and beat the Buckeyes soundly, 81-68. Then, last Sunday, Ohio State got embarrassed in Madison by the Wisconsin Badgers, 71-49. The Indiana game was bad enough, because losing on your home floor, even to the top-ranked team in the country, is always painful, but the loss to Wisconsin was especially disturbing. In that game, the characteristic traits of a Thad Matta team — tough defense, hustle, grit, and a don’t quit attitude in the face of adversity — were wholly absent. The Buckeyes didn’t show up and didn’t look like the same team we’d seen earlier in the season.
Fortunately, the college basketball season is long, and there are opportunities for redemption. The Buckeyes bounced back with a win over Minnesota earlier this week, and now they face another huge challenge in Michigan State. The Spartans are vying with Indiana for the Big Ten lead, and you know they will be crashing the boards like Tom Izzo-coached teams always do. Led by excellent point guard Keith Appling, the Spartans have a deep lineup of hard-nosed and talented players. Sam Thompson, above, and his teammates will need to play well to beat them, and they could use some help from the Buckeye Nut House fans, too.
But . . . it’s a Sunday game. Let’s hope that, this Sunday, the Buckeyes don’t play like they think Sunday should be a day of rest.
Breakfast At Bob’s
Normally I don’t eat breakfast. I drink a cup of black coffee and a small glass of orange juice, and then I’m off. A big breakfast makes me feel leaden, and that’s not how I want to begin a work day.
Today, however, I had breakfast with my siblings at Bob Evan’s. It was jammed, of course. If you go to a Bob Evan’s in central Ohio during the morning hours, it will be packed. People like it because the food is of good quality, the wait staff is competent and friendly, they keep your coffee cup and water glass filled, and they don’t shove you out the door if you want to chat a bit after your meal. I had a bottomless cup of well-brewed, medium strength coffee and the sausage gravy biscuit breakfast. The biscuit was fluffy, the gravy was not salty (a common problem with sausage gravy at many diners) and chock full of sausage, there was enough gravy to cover my finely shredded hash browns, and it all was topped with an egg. The dish was a steal at $5.99.
So what if most of the people who eat at Bob Evan’s are charter members of AARP? It’s a nice place that follows a time-honored recipe for business success: provide customers with excellent value for their hard-earned money.
And speaking of charter members of AARP, I thought it was interesting that UJ didn’t even need a menu. He’s a Bob Evan’s regular who gets the same thing every time he visits. What does that tell you?
The windowsill above our kitchen sink is topped with a collection of blue glass jars that we inherited from Kish’s mother. They were hard-working, functional items that probably have been used to can countless batches of jams, jellies, fruit compotes, and other concoctions over the decades. I imagine the blue tint to the glass had some practical application, too, such as keeping the light from interacting with the jar’s contents.
But now, graced with the patina of age and no longer used for commonplace purposes, they have acquired a distinctive, translucent beauty. They make a fine complement to our kitchen window right above the sink, adding a bit of delicate color even on those dreary February days.