Power Naps

The President Of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, has come under fire recently for his behavior during the Association for South East Asian Nations summit.  Duterte is a controversial figure for a lot of reasons, but the latest kerfuffle arises from his decision to skip some of the ASEAN meetings and take a “power nap” instead.

When he was questioned about it, the 73-year-old Duterte responded:  “What’s wrong with my nap?”

That’s an entirely valid question in my book. ASEAN meetings probably aren’t the most thrilling events, and not every meeting with a group of world leaders is a life and death occasion.  Is it really so bad if a world leader plops on a couch and dozes off now and then? I don’t know if President Trump enjoys a refreshing afternoon siesta, but if he doesn’t I think it couldn’t hurt if he adopted that practice.  He’d probably feel better about catching up on some shut-eye, and we might even avoid a few of those ill-advised tweets as a result.

Many of us of a certain age brought towels to our full-day kindergarten and, when the teacher told us to roll them out on the floor after lunch, we stretched out and took a short nap on command.  I don’t know about you, but I really liked kindergarten, and I think the afternoon nap probably had something to do with it.  Unfortunately, we don’t continue with the nap as part of the school routine post-kindergarten, and we certainly don’t build it into the average American workday — as opposed to Latin countries, where the siesta is a key part of the culture, is perfectly timed to coincide with the lull in human biorhythms, and allows for recharge and replenishment.

So President Duterte missed a few meetings?  So what?  ASEAN will soldier along somehow, despite his brief absence, and as long as he didn’t oversleep to the point of grogginess I bet he felt a lot better — and was a lot easier to deal with — after he woke up, stretched, appreciated his chance to rest, and moved forward with his day.

I repeat:  What’s wrong with a nap?

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Grammar 101

Trinity Episcopal Church, at the corner of Broad and Third Streets in downtown Columbus, has a cool arched red entrance and a welcoming message for all just above its two front doors. But . . . “An House of Prayer”?

It violates one of the rules of grammar that were drilled into students back in grade school — namely, that you use “an” when the following word starts with a vowel sound and “a” when the following word starts with a consonant sound. It’s one of the many weird English grammar rules that trip people up precisely because of letters like h, which can be pronounced in some cases and silent in others — so you write “an honor” but “a house.”

So how did the friendly message above the front door at Trinity get bungled? I don’t know, but I may have to go inside to see whether there are violations of other key rules, like “I before E, except after C, or where sounded in A as in ‘neighbor’ or ‘weigh.'”

Overweight Ohio

Some entity I’ve never heard of came out with their list of the fattest states in America.  Of course, I checked to see where Ohio ranked, and found that we’re at number 12 on the portly parade — not quite cracking the Top Ten of Tubbiness, but definitely up there farther than we want to be.

3672977397_af1d0d37ac_zAn outfit called WalletHub (has anybody heard of these guys?) supposedly looked at three factors — “obesity and overweight prevalence, health consequences and food and fitness” — to determine their rankings.  By their analysis, Mississippi, West Virginia, and Arkansas rank 1, 2, and 3 in overall corpulence, whereas Colorado, Utah, and Hawaii, respectively, are the top three at the slender end of the spectrum.  And notwithstanding all of the lobbying fat cats who prowl the halls of Congress, the District of Columbia is found to be one of the slimmest jurisdictions in the U.S.

I’m always skeptical of these kinds of rankings of states, but the news stories never get into the details of how they are developed that would allow proper analysis.  Precisely how was the “obesity and overweight prevalence” factor in this study determined?  Is there some kind of secret federal blubber database that was consulted?  And does food and fitness just look at the availability of food and workout facilities, or the kind of food that is consumed, or the use of restaurants and fitness outlets, or something else?  How in the world would you determine, for example, that Ohio is marginally fatter than That State Up North?

All that said, it’s clear that Ohio has work to do.  We don’t want to crack the Top Ten on the State Stoutness Scale and be known as Obese Ohio.  It’s time to put down those delectable Buckeye candies, push back from the kitchen table, hop on the elliptical or the bike, break out the weights, and start turning blubbery Buckeyes into buff Buckeyes.

That Extra Hour

I woke up this morning, looked at the clock, and then realized with a bright surge of delight that we had “fallen back” an hour overnight.  So I rolled over and enjoyed a pleasant doze and some rambling dreams to commemorate the occasion.

img_7460After getting up, I made a fine cup of coffee and continued the celebration by walking around the house, changing the settings on all of the clocks that aren’t “smart” — which means pretty much every clock in our house except the ones on our cellphones and the computer — and relished rolling them back an hour.  I punched the new time into the clock on the microwave, and rewound the old-fashioned art deco clocks at our bedsides.  It’s all part of the ritual, as important to the proper observance of the time change as any aspect of any religious service.  Some people recite the Rosary, some people sing the Doxology, I happily engage in the Liturgy of the Extra Hour.

Because getting an extra hour on a Sunday that dawns bright and crisp and clear and full of possibilities is truly a cause of rejoicing.

Skinny Cans

Kish went out to the grocery store the other day and came back with some Diet Coke — but it doesn’t look like any Diet Coke I’ve ever seen before.  This version is packaged in much taller and skinnier cans than were previously used.  The cans are almost as tall as your standard bottle of bottled water and about a third skinnier in diameter.

The redesign of the Diet Coke can seems like smart marketing to me.  If you’re trying to sell your product to people who are watching their calories, why not design a package that fits better with the known aspirations of the purchaser?  If you were hoping to lose a few pounds and were buying some Diet Coke as part of that process, which product design would be more appealing to you:  the squat, sturdy cans that used to be the standard, or these new cans that are notably willowy and elegant by comparison?  Would you rather take a swig from a thickset, brick-like can, or grasp a cool, slender can that looks like it might float away on a light breeze?  I’m guessing that the marketing tests that inevitably were part of the process of rolling out the new can design showed that a lot of purchasers preferred the decidedly leaner cans because the purchasers are hoping to be decidedly leaner, too, one of these days.

When I saw the new Diet Coke cans it reminded me of the introduction of Virginia Slims cigarettes years ago.  Virginia Slims were considerably longer, and skinnier, than standard-sized cigarettes; they almost looked like you were using a cigarette holder.  The advertising campaign for the new brand inevitably showed lissome, obviously sophisticated women clad in evening gowns having their Virginia Slims being lit by handsome gentlemen in tuxedos at elegant parties.  The slenderness of the cigarettes was a consciously planned part of the product — as the name of the brand confirmed — and it was all designed to capture the aspirations of a segment of the smokers’ market.

I don’t know if they still sell Virginia Slims, but I’m guessing the new Diet Coke design will be a success.  If you want to be thinner, why not buy thinner?

Now, what’s with the ginger-lime flavor of this product that Kish brought home?

Is Christmas Music Bad For Your Health?

We’ve turned another page on the calendar.  It’s November already, and that means . . . get ready to hear Christmas music everywhere you go.  For all I know, Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer is already playing on heavy rotation at the local mall.

567b6ea8160000b300eb98d9The British newspaper The Independent ran a story yesterday in which a clinical psychologist is quoted as saying that listening to too much Christmas music is bad for your health — your mental health, that is.  In the story, written by a reporter with the delightfully British name of Olivia Petter, psychologist Linda Blair states:  “People working in the shops at Christmas have to tune out Christmas music because if they don’t, it really does stop you from being able to focus on anything else.  You’re simply spending all of your energy trying not to hear what you’re hearing.”

The psychologist doesn’t cite any studies or clinical tests to support her conclusions, but this is one time where confirming evidence doesn’t seem to be needed.  I happen to like Christmas music — with a handful of notable exceptions like the aforementioned Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer and Do You Hear What I Hear? — but I can’t imagine what it would be like to work in a store where, starting about now, you’re required to listen to an endless loop of the same Christmas songs, over and over again.  Your first listen to the Bing Crosby and Andrews Sisters version of Jingle Bells might put a holiday spring in your step, but by the 139th hearing on December 3 you’re going to be ready to hurl that appallingly fragrant holiday candle display through the store window and tackle the nearest Salvation Army Santa.  No wonder Clark Griswold lost it in Christmas Vacation.

Christmas music isn’t immune to the general rule that too much of anything isn’t a good thing.  So when you’re doing your holiday shopping this season, don’t be surprised if that person behind the counter seems a little bit edgy — and be sure not to whistle Frosty The Snowman when you make your purchase.

 

Dow And Up And Dow Again

I don’t know what’s harder to read about right now:  political news, or the stock market.

dreamstime_xl_29871962-customSince I don’t want to lose any readers, we shan’t be talking about political news.  But checking out what’s been going on in the stock market recently is equally stomach-churning.  October has been one of the worst months in the stock market in a very long time, generating talk that we’re in the midst of a dreaded “correction.”  Even after springing back up by more than 400 points yesterday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is still down almost 6 percent this month, making it the worst month since August 2015.  The news for the S&P 500 has been even worse:  in October its down almost 8 percent, its worst month since May 2010.

And for those of us who aren’t working on Wall Street, the movements of the markets seem random and inexplicable.  Stock are down, then up, then down again — sometimes, all on the same day.  On Monday, the Dow surged upward, then plummeted, and ended up covering more than 900 points in its abrupt mood swing.  You read the reports on the markets that try to make sense of the movements — on Monday, for example, the stated culprit for the downturn was concerns about new trade actions with China, and on other bad days it’s those nefarious “profit takers” — and you really wonder if anybody knows why the markets move as they do.  And this shouldn’t come as a surprise, either:  after all, the markets are the sum of the actions of millions of individual investors, mutual funds, trading bots, institutional investors, portfolio traders, brokerage firms, foreign investors, and countless other actors.  It would be an unusual day, indeed, when all of the disparate participants in the market are motivated by the same news to take the same actions on the same day.

So, what’s a small investor to do?  I think the key is to not overreact, and to realize that investing in the market is supposed to be a long-term thing.  The little guy is never going to have the information the big players do and can’t plausibly time the market or anticipate the abrupt movements.  If you’re in the market long-term, don’t get distracted by the sickening plunges or the big climbs, because you’re really focused on what’s happening over the course of years.  And if you can’t take a long-term view, maybe you shouldn’t be in the markets at all.

Ignoring that stock market app on your phone helps, too.