A Return to Randomness
***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.***
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.