Thoughtless And Hopelessly Self-Absorbed

Sometimes I wonder about if people have changed, or whether there have always been a healthy percentage of seriously jerky people in the American population.  Did the “Greatest Generation” that survived the Great Depression and won World War II to usher in an era of great prosperity, for example, have a significant number of thoughtless and hopelessly self-absorbed members — or is the presence of such people an unfortunate modern phenomenon?

close-up-of-measles-rash-f7cd43Consider this article.  A 57-year-old Wisconsin man stayed in a hotel with people who have the measles — which is one of the most contagious diseases around.  The measles virus is communicated to different people by coughing and sneezing, and the virus is hardy enough to live for two hours in an airspace where an infected person coughed or sneezed.  In order words, you don’t need to be in the same room as someone who has measles at the same time for the disease to be transmitted.  The U.S. regularly deals with measles outbreaks when an infected person appears in a community, some members of the community aren’t vaccinated, and the disease quickly starts to spread.  With more and more people blithely deciding they don’t need to have their children vaccinated, the risks of an outbreak are multiplying.

Because the man had potentially been exposed to measles, officials decided it was prudent to keep him quarantined for 21 days and he was ordered to stay home.  Police officers were even posted outside his home to make sure he obeyed the quarantine order.  But because the man felt that he was “going crazy” inside his house, he enlisted his wife to help him escape.  He hid in her car and went to a gym so he could work out.  A gym, of course, would rank right up there as one of the best places for the measles virus to spread — an enclosed space where people are exercising in close quarters, and therefore breathing deeply of the shared air.

The man says he only stayed at the gym for a few minutes, because he started feeling guilty, and when he and his wife were later found outside by deputies, he apologized.  He’s now been charged with violating his quarantine order, and he points out that he never was officially diagnosed with measles and never thought he was symptomatic.  But, of course, that’s not a decision he gets to make, and now he and his wife are being prosecuted for their stupid and dangerous decision.

I think it would be tough to stay cooped up in your house for 21 days without getting cabin fever, but quarantine orders are for the public good.  You’d like to think that a mature adult would accept such an order and deal with it — but apparently that’s not the case.  I think anyone who would violate such an order and unilaterally decide to go to a public place like a gym, where they could potentially be exposing innocent people to one of the most contagious diseases around, should be prosecuted.  Maybe he’ll learn that the world doesn’t revolve around him, and there’s such a thing as a greater good.

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Highway Hilarity

One of the local news stations carried an article today that set me over the edge, so brace yourself for an unwanted Codger Rant.

The article, headlined “Ohio transportation officials use highway sign humor for safety,” was all about how the Ohio Department of Transportation (“ODOT”) is using those intrusive, programmable, ever looming electronic highways signs “to encourage drivers to stay safe and to smile.”  How?  Through messages like these dismal chestnuts — “Turkey says buckle buckle,” or “Drive egg-cellent some bunny needs you,” or “Santa sees you when you’re speeding.”  And if those knee-slappers aren’t leaving you in stitches, how about that favorite subject of stand-up hacks from the ’60s — namely, a little in-law humor?  Like:  “Visiting in-laws? Slow down, get there late.”

2551307_stillIt’s a laugh riot, for sure.  An ODOT official quoted in the article says:  “We are a government agency, but we are a government agency with a sense of humor.”

Hey, ODOT?  Uh, we’ll be the judge of that.

Here’s what’s interesting.  Those signs obviously cost a lot of money.  They were initially presented to taxpayers as something that could be used in emergencies, like “amber alerts” when an adult supposedly goes missing.  Of course, the amber alert rationale made no sense, unless drivers navigating the highways are somehow supposed to act on identified license plate numbers and car makes and models.  But how are drivers supposed to take down the information?  Keep a pen and notepad handy and scribble down the information while they’re manning the steering wheel?  Use forbidden cell phones to take photos of the sign?  And even if drivers could assimilate that information, are we really supposed to pay attention to the makes and models and license plates of other cars on the road, rather than our driving?

But, as inevitably seems to be the case, the use of the signs has now gone beyond their initial stated purpose.  Now would-be comedians in state government are using the signs to try out lame jokes that even a self-respecting Dad wouldn’t touch.  Is this really part of somebody’s job description?  And as for those of us who wonder whether the signs aren’t an unnecessary distraction, the article reports that the ODOT points out that “there’s no indication the signs have been blamed for any crashes.”  Gee, that doesn’t seem like a very high standard to meet, does it?

I’m sick to death of spending money on stuff that seems affirmatively counterproductive and unhelpful.  When it comes to electronic highway signs, I’m not laughing.

 

Intuitive Eating

Tired of having to follow some strict dietary regimen?  Tired of having to weigh your food, or buy weird special foods because your dietary plan says you must do so?  Tired of weighing yourself constantly and feeling disappointed because you’re not meeting your weight-loss goals?

10-principles-ofMeet “intuitive eating.”

It seems to be the latest “new” approach to eating.  As a recent article about the concept in The Atlantic puts it, the idea is to “encourage followers to work on their relationship with food without worrying about their weight, and to reject the notions of virtue and sin that have underpinned cultural ideas about eating since time immemorial.”  Intuitive eating teaches that weight loss isn’t the top priority, and the cycle of losing weight and gaining it back is harmful.  And here’s the key point:  “Eat what you want, with no rules about what to eat, how much of it, or when. Intuitive eating has 10 tenets, but the most well-known one is that no foods are off limits, and that there is no such thing as a “good” or “bad” food.”

So how is that supposed to work, exactly?  One underlying theory of intuitive eating is that there is a strong psychological component to eating.  The notion is that people are attracted to the forbidden fruit — or in this case, perhaps, the forbidden ice cream — so saying that something is off limits just makes it seem all that more irresistible.  People who switch to intuitive eating sometimes binge on their favorite guilty pleasure that had been strictly outlawed, but advocates of the approach say they ultimately strike a balance with food that is healthy and sustainable.  With all of the mystique and the calorie-counting and guilt stripped away, the intuitive eaters do what people traditionally used to do:  they eat when they’re hungry, and don’t eat when they aren’t.  And they spend a lot less on diet books, and scales, and special foods that strict diets require.

Does intuitive eating make sense?  I don’t know, honestly — but I do think that our notions of food seem to have gotten out of whack.  There are so many health issues associated with obesity that avoiding obesity obviously should be a lifelong goal, and if you are looking to lose a few pounds — or more than a few — a diet can help to kick start the cycle of loss that gets you to your desired range.  In my case, going low-carb for a few months a few years ago was an important step toward feeling healthier.  But you can’t stay on diets forever, and at some point cycling over to a more sustainable approach to food and eating has to happen.

Who’d have thought that, with all of the diets and food advice out there, human beings might get back to the simple concept of eating when you’re hungry?

Rethinking The American Home

The New York Times has an interesting opinion piece on the annual effort of the National Association of Home Builders to present its vision of the “New American Home.”  Since 1984, the NAHB has built a New American Home somewhere in the United States.  The underlying concept is that, in the process, the NAHB will try out the latest building and energy technologies, consider the functionality of different floor plans, and innovate with new materials.

dji_0028-editBut what’s happened is that the New American Home has gotten a lot bigger and a lot more elaborate.  The first New American Home was 1500 square feet, but since then the standard has changed considerably.  The 2018 version, pictured at right, is close to 11,000 square feet, with eight — 8! — bathrooms and both an elevator and a car elevator in the garage.  The 2019 version will be 8,000 square feet with an “inner sanctum lounge.”  Prior versions of the New American Home have included amenities like a waterfall off the master bedroom suite.

The article wonders whether the concept of the New American Home hasn’t gone off in the wrong direction.  Rather than going for increasingly elaborate McMansions out in the suburbs, why not focus on condos, or smaller houses in urban settings?  Why build “homes” that exceed 10,000 square feet and have 8 bathrooms when American families have grown smaller, not larger?   These are all good questions in my view.

For years, home ownership has been a core part of the American dream — but that doesn’t mean the home has to be some sprawling monstrosity on an acre and a half of property in a gated community.  When immigrants came to the U.S. in the 1800s they built neighborhoods like German Village, where I now live — a neighborhood right next to downtown Columbus, where the houses are small (ours is less than 2000 square feet) and are placed cheek by jowl with commercial buildings and apartments.  It’s a great community, and just about everything we need is within walking distance.  We love the convenience and the neighborhood feel.

I like living in a smaller space.  We don’t need 10,000 square feet to rattle around in, and I wouldn’t want to pay what it costs to get that amount of personal space, either.  I think it would be interesting if the NAHB revisited the New American Home concept and tried to develop homes that are smaller, less expensive, and closer to the downtown cores, and don’t contribute to still more suburban sprawl.  Wouldn’t home designers welcome a challenge to build homes that don’t require endless space, where creativity is needed to make use of every square foot?

Thinking Baseball Thoughts

The other day I got a welcome ping from my cellphone.  My ESPN app — after providing countless NBA-related “alerts” and “news” that I didn’t really care about — reported on the score of a Cleveland Indians spring training game.  The Tribe lost, but I didn’t care about that, not really.  I was just happy to see that spring training had begun and progressed to the point that games were being played.

1883887If spring training has begun, spring itself can’t be far behind.

Baseball is changing.  I ran across a story about how Major League Baseball has entered into an agreement with the independent Atlantic League that will allow MLB to use the league to try out modified rules and equipment changes.  Under the deal, the Atlantic League will implement new rules at the request of MLB and then provide data and feedback on how the rules changes work out so MLB can decide whether to adopt the changes at the big-league level.  And get this:  the rules changes that supposedly are being considered include moving back the mound and having Trackman — in effect, a robot umpire — call balls and strikes.

As the article points out, the Atlantic League has been an innovator in baseball, including initiatives to speed up the game and to force umpires to call the high strike — i.e., strikes that are within the strike zone but above the belt.  Now they can use Trackman to ensure that the true strike zone gets called.  And because the Atlantic League is full of veteran pitchers, many of whom have MLB experience, it is thought that they will be better able to adjust to proposed changes in the location of the pitcher’s mound.

To be sure, baseball has changed over the years — it’s hard to imagine bigger changes than the introduction of the designated hitter in the American League and adding layers of wild card and divisional playoffs leading up to the World Series, for example — but it’s still all about nine players on a field and a guy with a ball throwing to a guy with a bat.  For spectators, though, the use of a robot ump would really change the experience.  How in the world do you effectively heckle a robot ump?

California Warning

The Mamas and the Papas sang about California Dreaming.  Things have changed in the Golden State since the ’60s, however.  Now, whenever I enter the California-plated rental car for our little trip through southern Arizona and New Mexico, I get a weird  California Warning.

It’s a big, intrusive notice plastered right there on the driver’s side door that tells me that operating a motor vehicle can be hazardous to my health.  You see, the State of California apparently knows — hey, that’s the word the notice uses — that engine exhaust, carbon monoxide, phthalates (how is that pronounced, anyway?), and lead cause cancer and birth defects.  So what’s a driver to do?  Well, the notice says you should avoid breathing exhaust fumes and idling your engine, you should service your vehicle — I think that means gas it up when the tank runs dry — in a well-ventilated area, and you should wear gloves or wash your hands frequently when servicing your vehicle.

From the look of the notice, it appears that California voters enacted one of their voter propositions — in this case, Proposition 65 — that requires the notice.  In fact, Proposition 65 was passed in 1986 and, among other things, requires the State of California to assemble and publish a list of chemicals that cause cancer or birth defects — which now includes about 800 chemicals — and obligates businesses to notify consumers about chemicals in products. Hence, the Big Brother-type notice on our rental car.

I have to say that the notice gives me a laugh every time I get into the car.  Why?  Because, based on what I’ve seen of California, it’s got to be one of the most ignored — even flouted — notices in the history of governmental notices.  Californians don’t exactly seem to be avoiding their cars; California traffic congestion is easily one of the worst in any state.  And because of that, Californians are routinely breathing in those bad exhaust fumes as they wait in a colossal traffic jam on “the Santa Monica Freeway” or “the 405” or any of the countless other highways that are always subject to a traffic snarl at any time of the day or night.  And I haven’t noticed Californians donning gloves at the filling station as they fuel their cars or rushing to wash their hands after gassing up, either.  Apparently they’ve made the rational judgment that washing your hands in one of those gross, soiled sinks in a gas station bathroom is more hazardous that those phthalates.

By the way, phthalates are pronounced ftha-lates.

Arizona Sunset

On my last night in the Southwest, we were treated to a spectacular Arizona sunset. We just don’t get them in Ohio during the winter months.

We came to the Southwest in search of the sun — and we found it, and how. The temperatures have been a bit cooler than normal, but seeing Old Sol everyday makes up for just about anything. I’d recommend the desert in winter to anyone interested in combating the Midwestern gray sky blahs.