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.

IMG_3184It’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

00019816Richard 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?

Looking Older

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.

IMG_3183If 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.