Parlor Spider...Step In, Little Fly

Insightful thoughts and/or rants from atop the soapbox from one who wishes to share the "right" opinion with everyone.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Barbie & Ken Pump Iron

The reality is, of course, that more than one-third of all American children are overweight, and perhaps as many as 17% of them are obese. You've heard about how schools are feeding kids crap and cutting down on their opportunities for exercise. We've been benumbed by the outright condemnation of video game (hand-eye coordination and lightning thought processes be damned) ad infinitum, and it's been shouted from the rooftops :"Get off the couch and get into gear!" And, of course, we continue to get free refills on soda pop, etc. but here's a novel approach thought up by researchers at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Indiana: weight training for tots!
In a studey recently reported, researchers found that 6-8 yr.olds burned more calories and had higher heart and breathing rates when they played with three-pound toy blocks than they did when they played with ordinary blocks. The conclusion is that if we were to weight their teddy bears and other playthings, they would expend more energy and be more toddlers! Makes sense to me, but there are a few cautionary ideas here, too.
Two kids are playing with weighted Thomas the Train cars and get into a tiff concerning which one gets to the station first. Billy screams at Betty who hoists her coal car and delivers a knockout blow to the noggin. Jimmy loses a weighted slot car race featuring all the characters from "Cars" so he fires his Ramone at Sally's driver in the pits. Needless to say, Tow Mader is working overtime as is Doc DeSoto!
"Barbie Hits the Gym" could be a big hit in more ways than one as well.
I actually, have a better idea: several, to be precise.

1. Change diapers only every other day. As the poop catcher fills up, the extra weight would provide aerbic training with little chance of danger to others. This would be especially helpful if your kid was going to be, say, and equestrian(-enne) someday.

2. Introduce weighted pj's. As much as kids run around ready for bed, this would provide an excellent way to strengthen muscle and respiration. The only liability might come when hoisting said child into the air whether in a friendly game of catch or when performing the "hop and drop" maneuver into the crib. Can you say bulging disc?

3. When pushing a baby in a stroller, be sure the child gets exercise by using the pedal you have installed inside the buggy. Elastic straps on the pedal should work nicely; as an added bonus when using the "umbrella" type stroller, the kid won't be sticking a foot on the pavement every 20 seconds making you run abdomen first into the handle. (Sometimes it's not even abdomen high, if you get my drift!)

4. Live five miles from anywhere, preferably downhill from everywhere. This will be tough on you when the child is young, but when (s)he gets to be school age, there's the "five-mile walk uphill to school carrying my band instrument" ploy guaranteed to keep that kid in shape.

There is no need for American kids to be overweight and out of shape. If Jack LaLane can pull five rowboats a mile while swimming at age 90, they can be fit, too. It's never too soon to begin that Spartan regimen.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Naptime, Pt II

Just when you think the Japanese have scooped us again, baseball being an exception (the World Baseball Classic being an aberration), it seems the good ol' USA has also caught on to the nap thing...sort of. The standard cliche has something to do with the fact that if something has made it to the Midwest, it's been on both coasts for a couple of years.
Anyway, an alert, nameless friend told me that the Mall of America in Minneapolis had a nap parlor similar to those reported in Japan. Style points for the name : "MiniNapolis" but points lost because there was not enough business to stay open. Its stay in the megamall was somewhat brief. Imagine the following conversation between shoppers:
"Now, honey, I'm going to Ann Taylor Loft and Banana Republic. The Sharper Image doesn't want you in their store playing the pinball machine anymore. Why don't you go take a brief nap, and I'll be back in an hour, and we'll head over to IKEA."
"What? And PAY for a snooze? Hell, I'll just sit right here on this bench and nod off if I get tired. I don't work all year so's we can come all the way to the mall and pay to sleep! That's why we go to the 9 a.m. service on Sunday. I'm going to head over to The Hunting Shack and check out the new blaze orange styles for fall. Let's meet at Victoria's Secret in an hour."
It's this kind of conservative attitude that doomed the sleep emporium at the Mall of America; to its credit though, the store simply relocated downtown to take advantage of the glut of business types working there. No word how well it's doing.
Perhaps the Midwest just isn't as hip as Japan, though we DO have the St. Paul Saints and the nun who gives massages at the games.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

American Vacation sans Chevy Chase

We've certainly come a long way from the old Connie Francis tune about vacation just chillin' in the summer sun. In fact, I would suspect we've outdone the Go Go's vacation-themed ditty as well. How? We spend our vaction working, believe it or not. According to at least one in four Americans plans to take work with him/her while on vacation. This means the BlackBerry comes along as well as the laptop and cell phone. What? Are you people nuts? I think you have missed the whole idea behind the word "vacation" which is defined by three or more days off consecutively. estimates that American workers will give back over 574 million days of vacation this year under the use-it-or-lose-it plan. As our population edges toward three million people, this number represents a fair number of idiots (in my estimation). On average, Americans leave four days of vacation unused every year. Twenty percent of us took NO vacation in the last three years! This is simply absurd. Nobody, on his/her death bed, is going to say, "I should have spent more time at work." Are you simply irreplaceable? I think not. As an example, I missed six weeks of work fifteen years ago with a serious medical issue. I fretted every day about how my students would fare without me. When I returned, the comments ranged from, "Oh, you're back," to "We really did like the guy who took your place!" Snap!!!
And it's not as if Americans get a ton of vacation anyway. We lag far behind most of the working world. Americans average 14 days of vacation time. Australians get 17; Canadians get 24; Germans get 27; French folk get 39 on average. Heck, I know Swedes get a whole month off every summer. and they DON'T spend it hunched over the iBook.
Want to work for a company who understands the principle of vacation? UCG of Rockville (Maryland, I think) is a publisher of business if your IT people couldn't do that in their spare time. Anyway, this company has NO LIMIT to the amount of vacation its employess can take. The idea is that if you need a break, take a break because you'll be better when you come back. One of their employees took eight weeks off to ride his bike across America. Another took six weeks for her tour of China. Mind you, only a couple of weeks are paid, but still, the freedom would be cool.
How about a national bank of vacation days? People who were not going to use theirs could contribute, and the rest of the population, teens excluded, could withdraw them...something like Buffett's Bank of Bad Habits. Hmmmm....
I'll take the enforced vacation that comes with teaching. I leave the computer at work and pick up the handyperson tools and begin relaxing with the project jar. No hammock and mai tai, but no real stress, either; by August, I'm ready to get back to it. Nobody is going to short me on MY vacation days!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Choose To Snooze

Standing in a shop in San Miguel de Allende last summer, I noticed the shopkeepers closing the doors and shooing people, including me, outside at about 2 p.m. I thought it strange until the idea of "siesta" was explained to me. Until that point, I thought it was a cultural reference made in Speedy Gonzalez cartoons (we were sheltered growing up in the Midwest!). Of course, the stores reopened an hour later and stayed open until 8 or so...thus, the siesta made sense. Now, it may be a phenomenon which is becoming global. If the Japanese do it, can we be far behind?
Remember, the typical Japanese is characterized as a workaholic who barely gets 5 hours of sleep a all accounts, this seems accurate. Even high school students at Meizen High School get little sleep due to long commutes and heavy homework schedule. The solution? Nap time! This endeavor has taken over Japan, from the Toyota plants where napping workers are thought to be more energized for the afternoon work after a lunchtime nap, to board rooms and high schools where students are strongly encouraged to take a 15-minute nap after lunch. Business ventures have been quick to see the profit: "nap salons" are popular places with businessmen at lunch where they can catch some Zs for as little as $4.50. And you thought the oxygen bar was a wacky idea? People are buying desk pillows at department stores everywhere.
Now, if I were doing this, I'd probably fall asleep and wake up the next day...the ingenious Japanes have a solution for that as well: they serve a cup of coffee just before the nap. Caffeine takes about 20 minutes to get into the blood stream effectively so in 20 minutes, one wakes up raring to go! Their studies have shown that a nap of more than 30 minutes makes one feel less energized so the coffee trick is perfect.
Sleeping on the job has taken on a whole new look, but who cleans up all the drool on the desks?