Lost Dog

IMG_5592I passed this already weathered poster on my way to work this morning, and the lost, big-eyed expression on Frida’s face made me want to ditch work and go looking for her then and there.  I didn’t, of course, but I did keep an eye out for her on my walks to and from the office.  The picture made it easy to imagine the little dog shivering, rain-soaked, and unable to find her way home.  Unfortunately, Frida was nowhere to be found.

There are few things sadder and more heart-tugging than a “lost dog” poster on a telephone pole.  All dog owners can identify with the person who turned around and found that her dog darted away, or was mysteriously gone from the backyard.  We can envision the frantic, fruitless search, the drive through nearby streets looking for the lost pup, and then finally the desperation that causes the little Xeroxed signs to be stapled to telephone poles and bulletin boards in hopes that someone might have seen the beloved family pet.

Keep an eye out for Frida, will you?

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Business Blogger

Richard has started his new job at the San Antonio Express-News, and one of the first things he’s done is restart the blog “Shop Talk,” which will collect news about developments in the retail sector in San Antonio.  His first post on the blog is here.

A lot of newspaper work these days is in the social media sphere, on blogs, Twitter feeds, and other outlets that I can’t even begin to identify.  The reality is that many young people are getting their news electronically, and social media also allows news to be published immediately, rather than waiting until next morning’s newspaper.

The retail area, too, is one that is interesting to most people.  Many of us worked in retail at some point in our lives — as a server in a restaurant, as a cashier at the grocery store, or as a sales clerk at a clothing outlet — and virtually everyone shops at retail stores.  As a result of our significant exposure to retail shops, some questions are just intrinsically interesting, like — how much does shoplifting cost stores, and what are the costs, in reputation and potential liability, in pursuing an aggressive no-tolerance policy?  Are all employers requiring applicants to take drug tests and no-smoking pledges these days?  And is it true that clothing manufacturers, recognizing that Americans are becoming portly, have increased the sizes of clothing, so that what is now marked a 32 waist would have been a 34 waist three years ago?

If you’re interested in retail trends, the Shop Talk blog is worth following — as is Richard’s Twitter feed.

Obese Ohio

Ohio is no longer in the top 10 list of states with the highest obesity rates.  Whoo-hoo!  But that’s where the good news ends.

Gallup and Healthways conduct an annual study to assess obesity rates in the United States, and the results are appalling.  Nationally, the obesity problem keeps getting worse, with the obesity rate in 2014 reaching 27.7 percent.  In Mississippi, which heads up the national top 10 list, the obesity rate is a shocking 35.2 percent.  Ohio dropped from number 8 in 2013 to number 13 in 2014, but that decline seems to be mostly because other people in other states are simply getting fatter, faster, than Ohioans.  Ohio’s obesity rate is 29.9 percent — which means Ohio is just a few sugary sodas away from joining the roster of states where the obesity rates is above 30 percent.

You can quibble about the design of the Gallup-Healthways study; it uses self-reported weight and height information to calculate obesity based on Body Mass Index, a measure that many experts consider to be crude and not entirely reliable.  But anyone with eyes can see that Americans keep getting fatter and fatter, which means that more Americans are dealing with adverse health consequences and increases in health care costs that flow from obesity-related conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.

The Gallup-Healthways study also found a strong link between obesity and a sense of overall personal well-being.  That conclusion squares with research that shows poverty and obesity are related — according to a recent USDA study, for example, 40 percent of Americans on food stamps are obese — and is consistent with our everyday experience.  People who are struggling with financial problems, social problems, or a lack of purpose are less likely to get out and exercise or pay much attention to their health and appearance and more likely to find solace in a nightly quart of ice cream.  Their increasing weight then becomes part of a downward cycle that ends in depression and obesity.

What, then, is the answer to the obesity problem?  Government programs and hectoring don’t seem to work.  The key is getting individual Americans to care more about their own circumstances and develop more self-awareness and self-respect.  But how?