Friday, July 27, 2007

A Return to Randomness

CD in Play: Soundgarden, Badmotorfinger/Satanoscillatemymetallicsonatas

***This post has been revised and re-edited since 27 July, 2007. It is amazing how much one misses when one is in a rush.***

Blog Mods

I managed to add my friend Glen's blog to the side while deleting the long spent carcass of Doug's dead blog at the same time. I tried before but it wouldn't work. I also put in a link to "Phase Toys", a musical programme I like. (requires Shockwave)

Booker T and the Library

I finished The Children of Men and would recommend it to others. I know people who talked about the explicit religious content of the film, but that goes double for the book. Thankfully, it isn't the sort that Evangelicals will go all gooey for (like Frank Peretti's unbelievably horrid This Present Darkness) so we don't have to worry about campaigns to buy the books and shove it through people's mail boxes or endure endless tales of how Jameses book changed their prayer lives. The Children of Men handles the religious themes in a skillful and literate way. It isn't flawless, but I hold to what I said in the post below.
I have started on Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I know, everyone has read these books except me. I read the first one around February 2006 and was shocked when my Dad's 14 year old step-daughter claimed that the films were better than the books. I asked her about the books and it became clear that her grandparents had been buying her the books, but she hadn't really read them through. I believe she has re-read the books, however, but that mostly seems to be an effect of peer pressure.

Addendum: I finished Chamber of Secrets last night (Saturday) and have now started on The Prisoner of Azkaban.

Fat Friends Make Friends Fat

So I am fat guy and have some fat friends. According to a recent study, one of us is to blame for making each other fat. Obesity is contagious : not only is knowing me putting you at risk - it puts your other friends and family at risk too! While I do not doubt the overall veracity of the study, as I had come to somewhat similar conclusions from my own casual observations, I do believe they are playing up a certain angle to achieve a certain effect.
Smoking has a stigma attached to it in a way that it hadn't for most of the 20th Century, except up until the end. Second hand smoke is just as lethal for the people around smokers as cigarettes are for the smokers themselves. Smoking has been stigmatised to the point that people either become more ardent and stubborn smokers, or they quit because it is socially acceptable to do so. Obesity already has a stigma attached and shaming fat people backfires more than it succeeds because of the psychological factors (such as depression) in play. You can drive smokers out of restaurants, the workplace, etc. into the rain and snow, but you really can't do the same fat people. (Unless you are a sociopathic asshole)
The drive behind the release of this study, I believe, is to give obesity its very own "second hand smoke" factor: one person's obesity isn't just their own problem anymore. I believe they are attempting to apply a subtle form social coercion to make obesity less acceptable. A laudable goal in the face of rising obesity trends, perhaps, but is it really the way to go in order to buck said trends? Will this tactic succeed in getting people to change their eating and dietary habits - to get them off the couch and out onto the field, into the pool and into the gym? I am not so sure. Inactive friends make friends inactive, but one of the best ways to start getting healthy is to do it as a group. Active friends can influence their friends as well.
My supervisor suggested a tax break for fit people, believing that a financial incentive would see the rise of a fitter nation. At a person's annual physical they score points for their overall controllable fitness level. Non-smokers, light drinkers, non-drug users, active people, etc would receive a document for Revenue Canada certifying a fitness tax break. An interesting idea, but I am not sure how you would make that work either.
The only way to truly tackle obesity is to tackle it early on. I think gym should be made mandatory throughout high school. Maybe gym classes could be split between those who really love athletics and those who just need to stay active - competitive and recreational classes. As I write this I have just learned that my Dad's oldest friend was nearly crucified while attending university in the 1960's for suggesting such an idea.
I also think mandatory Phys. Ed classes or activity groups should carry on into university, trade school and the workplace. I have said it before, but instead of watching sports we should be playing them. In Montreal, I was beginning to get into shape playing relatively non-competitive softball - with people of all conditions and skill levels - every weekend from late spring to early fall and by walking. There was no dramatic weight loss, but I could walk for a straight 45++ minutes a day and feel good afterwards. If you know Montreal, I could walk from Jean Talon Market down to Old Montreal and back with no complaints.
If society truly wants to tackle the rise in obesity and get people like me -who take stabs at getting healthy but lack the drive and the wherewithal to follow through - into shape, it will require something quite radical. We need to promote activity in a radical way and tackle the thorny issue of nutrition, food and the unhealthy choices many people are faced with. We need to look at the direction our society is headed: at the unhealthy positions we are put into through obligations to a demanding work life and the poor dietary choices available to people of limited means.
I could go on by I have to get going, if you want to debate this or get me to clarify, take it up the comments section.


Blogger Magnus said...

Oh Marge, if only we had made healthier choices...

27 July, 2007 21:23  
Blogger Betty said...

I'm a little leery about the gungo-ho idea that all we need to do is really push people and indocrinate kids the right way and pile on the social pressure and we can overcome this ZOMG OBESITY PLAGUE!

I read a very interesting book recently -- Rethinking Thin, which I recommend -- which argues rather persuasively that taking this particular attitude does a lot less to get people thinner (or help prevent them from getting fat) than it does to make them miserable. Apparently, what a lot of current research indicates is that people tend to have genetically pre-programmed weight ranges that our bodies naturally want to sit at, and to push your body far out of that range and keep it there long-term can sometimes be a lot more trouble than it's actually worth, in terms of genuine health benefits.

Which is most certainly not to say that keeping phsyically active and making good choices about what you eat aren't good ideas no matter what one's natural weight is, of course. But it is true, I think, that our culture is obsessed with weight in ways that are, well, not necessariy healthy.

By the way, gym class is mandatory through high school in the US, or at least it was in New Jersey when I went to school. This policy succeeded extremely well in instilling in me a life-long hatred of physical activity of any kind, which I am very, very slowly and painfully attempting to overcome as an adult. Sigh. Put me down as a strong advocate of "tracking" in phys. ed. classes, as well as in academic subjects. I should've been in a remedial gym class, but that isn't a concept that even seems to have occured to anyone in the educational system.

29 July, 2007 21:36  
Blogger Glen McKay said...

For the record I've never read any of the Potter books, and only saw the 1st movie. Not because I have some anti-Potter mania, I'm just not a big fiction reader so haven't bothered. Maybe down the road I'll buy the set from a used book store, I figure in a year or two there'll be tons of them available.

As for gym, I too have a lifelong hatred of some forms of exercice thanks to mandatory gym class. To this day I despise running/jogging and refuse to do it. And don't get me started on being forced to play rugby despite being one of the small, wimpy kids . . .

30 July, 2007 00:14  
Blogger Geosomin said...

I don't know about genetically predisposed weights, but I know learning to be healthy as a kid would go a long way. I had no idea of portion size or that I really should just move my butt intil a while ago. Now eating better and exercising there is a weight I'm at and despite my efforts it's not I figure this is where I"m to be. I think if kids went outside and watched less TV they'd just be more active...however I remember being an active kid and playing lots of sports and still being round...I just ate too much and too many bad stuff. I think it's just a matter of doing more and eating well. Even now, give me the changce and I'll inhale the worst of foods without blinking.
I don't know if obesity is contagious, but I do know healthier people eat healther and I tend to also when around them...and around people I know who eat crap and do less I veg out and get lazy and eat too much. But isn't it all down to personal will power? I mean noone MAKES you eat, just like noone makes you smoke. Altho I will compare my need for junk food at times to a nic fit...if it's around it's that much harder to resist. And forcing someone to exercise when they hate it? Well good way to kill the fitness thing for them all together...

As for HArry Potter...well the movies were good, but there is so much to the books that I'd say they were better.

30 July, 2007 09:03  
Blogger Magnus said...

My point is to have a recreational class which is aimed at fun as oppossed to competition and strict fitness guidelines. Just the act of getting out and doing something physical.
I was athletic in high school and I hated gym class becuase of the jock mentality and fitness zealots. (who don't believe exercise should be enjoyable) Take the social pressure off of gym class and I think things would change dramatically. It doesn't even have to be a class as such, it could be like hiking groups, badminton leauges, cricket fellowships... whatever, just stay active.
The softball I played in Montreal was great. We had had people who could have gone pro playing with people of middling skill (like me) and people who'd be lucky to hit the ball over the short-stop. Didn't matter, fun was had by all and the good players never allowed themselves to be lumped up together - no egos in play just people. Amatuer athletics or activity groups are the way to go.
I think my approach is better than the editorial I read this weekend by a woman looking to drive fat employees out in the cold to eat their snacks and forbid food in the workplace, period.

30 July, 2007 09:13  
Blogger Magnus said...

Geo, judging from your bikini bear shot - you don't need to loose weight.
Changing dietary habits is also important, looking at what is in the food you eat, etc. But you still need to burn food energy no matter what the intake.

30 July, 2007 09:20  
Blogger Geosomin said...

Thanks. :) Ah...but you'll notice my butt is conveniently crammed into a pair of upper body has always been in decentish shape, but yeah I can't complain. I've come a long way. It's why I don't beat myself up about it...much. I keep reminding myself that being healthy is what it is all about.
And yeah, there should be more fun intramural stuff to do. I stopped with intramurals after high schoola s I couldn't find any "fun" leagues. It was all too serious. Playing ball or whatever as a girl meant standing out of the way and watching the guys do all the work so us "wimpy girls" wouldn't screw things up. Doesn't make it fun at all. I'm toying with joining an intramural soccor league this winter...I think I may have found a fun team to play with.

30 July, 2007 09:24  
Blogger Betty said...

But isn't it all down to personal will power? I mean noone MAKES you eat, just like noone makes you smoke

Well, one of the really interesting bits of research that the book I mentioned points out is that it seems not to necessarily be down to personal willpower in the way that people like to think it is. Obese people put onto healthy but restricted-calorie diets to take them far below their usual weights turn out to show exactly that same kind of physical and psychological symptoms that normal-weight people on starvation diets show. Saying "I'm not going to eat that cookie today" is one thing. Going day after day after day when your body and brain are sending you starvation signals, even when you know better intellectually, doesn't just take ordinary willpower, it can take downright superhuman willpower, especially when you're surrounded by food.

This is one reason why dieting tends not to work, long-term, and people who lose lots of weight almost always gain it back eventually.

I think we'd do a lot better if we emphasized healthy, balanced eating rather than weight loss per se.

And, per Magnus' comment, I think taking the social pressure out of physical activity for kids in a systematic way is much easier said than done, but it's definitely worth attempting.

30 July, 2007 18:07  

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