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Friday, May 31, 2013

Just Say No to Bike Helmet Laws

One argument on helmet laws in Atlantic Cities (read a few of the comments). Info about helmets at Bicycling Magazine.

Before this argument even picks up a faint hint of steam it needs to be crushed.  Mandatory bike helmet laws would be a foolish step to take if we are at all serious about lowering carbon emissions. If you are so concerned about the safety of cyclists then lobby for tougher laws against aggressive drivers and let individual cyclists decide whether or not they want to wear a helmet.   

Making helmets mandatory for cyclists is basically telling people not to ride bikes.  It over-inflates the dangers of cycling and gives people the false impression that riding a bike is hazardous to their health. I have ridden a bike almost every day of my life since I was a child and the vast majority of the kilometers I have racked up cycling have been without a helmet, so sue me. If you look at cities where people actually embrace cycling as a mode of transportation you will find that almost no one wears a helmet when commuting. You can cite all of the studies you like (and the argument about helmets goes both ways—for and against) but I haven’t completely relinquished my common sense which tells me that riding a bike in the city isn’t particularly dangerous.

I’m quite certain that studies would show that people who wear helmets 24 hours a day no matter what they are doing suffer fewer head injuries yet we don’t mandate helmet laws for all public activities.  Wearing a helmet while driving a car would probably save lives but making all automobile passengers wear a helmet would be at least as ridiculous as forcing helmets onto the heads of bike commuters.

The bottom line is that society should be getting down on their hands and knees and thanking people who choose to ride a bike instead of firing up an internally combusted machine to effect their daily rounds.  The absolute last thing we need to do is give anyone an excuse to leave their bike at home. So don’t tell me to put on a bike helmet and I won’t tell you to get off your fat ass and get some exercise. Does that sound fair?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Stair Master

I have been foregoing the lift these days and taking the stairs whenever I can. Separating the street from my place on the fourth floor are 84 stairs. Yesterday I went up and down four times. I also take the stairs when I go to someone else’s apartment.  This alone isn’t going to make me as fit as I want to be but tack this on to my sport cycling and the trips around town I take every day on the bike share program and it all adds up. I walk in my door huffing and puffing, but I recover quickly.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The End of Diets

1) a specific allowance or selection of food, esp prescribed to control weight or in disorders in which certain foods are contraindicated: a salt-free diet, a 900-calorie diet

2) the food and drink that a person or animal regularly consumes

Etymology: 13th Century: from Old French diete, from Latin diaeta, from Greek diaita mode of living, from diaitan to direct one's own life

With the New England Journal of Medicine’s report on the primary prevention of cardio vascular disease with a Mediterranean diet I think that Americans will look at the above definitions of diet and choose the second which is closer to the ancient Greek word meaning “way of life.” What we eat shouldn’t be dictated by a fad because the last time I checked we need to eat almost every day until we die. If you stop eating you’ll die a lot sooner, I can guarantee you.

In short the study says this: About 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease can be prevented in people at high risk if they switch to a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, fruits and vegetables, and even drink wine with meals.

The Mediterranean Diet is a “fad” that probably started about 3,000 years ago in this part of the world and has never gone out of style.  This diet (of the #2 variety) has been what people have eaten in this region since people have lived in this region. They don’t eat the food they eat because they’re trying to lose a few extra kilos or because they are worried about heart disease; they eat it because it is the best food available to them. The traditions surrounding what people eat here have been carefully protected and passed down from generation to generation.

One of the major components of the Mediterranean Diet, perhaps the cornerstone, is olive oil.  It would be very difficult to overestimate the importance of olive oil in the diet of most of the people living on or near the Mediterranean Sea.

When I say that the Mediterranean Diet is the end of diets I don’t mean that people will stop dieting. At this moment I am restricting my caloric intake in an effort to shed a kilo or two as summer nears. What I don’t have to do is search the bookstores for a new fad diet to help me achieve my goal. I will eat the same food I always eat, just less of it.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Eternal Student

After living in Spain for this long (6.5 years) it still isn’t difficult to see life here as new and interesting. I still have a long way to go as far as learning the language but I’ve come a long way. Whatever shortcomings that plague me in my Spanish skills I don’t think that anyone could fault me for not trying hard enough.  Of course, I could do more but that goes for everything almost all of us do in life.  So just what have I been doing these days to improve my listening, speaking, and reading?

First of all, I have been a fanatic about listening to Spanish podcasts on my MP3 player throughout the day.  I came across a website for downloading podcasts and audio books in Spanish that is a veritable gold mine. It’s called iVoox and it was like an answer to my prayers (if I were the praying type which of course I’m not).  I have been listening to boring talks about the Spanish economy to comedy dialogues by my favorite Spanish comic, Luis Piedrahita as well as a translation of The Canterville Ghost.

I made it through a nine hour radio broadcast made back in the early 1980s about the Spanish Civil War. I would have learned a lot more reading a good book on the subject but I especially liked the interviews of people who lived and fought in the war, something that would be impossible today as even the youngest combatants of that conflict would now be really, really old.  Of course I side with the republicans as I live in what was then the capital of the republicans.

I haven’t really sunk my teeth into a book in Spanish in quite a while even though I read constantly. I took a detour and read a few books in English in the past couple months. It’s nice to actually understand everything I read but I know that if I don’t keep plugging away I will never get to that point in Spanish…and I desperately want to get to that point in Spanish.  I have been rereading a lot of stuff just to help incorporate the new vocabulary from those books into my speech. As I have mentioned before, when I read a book in Spanish I underline new words with a red pen and then write the meaning in the margin. When I reread a book it always surprises me when I still don’t know the damn word.

I’m hyper self-critical when it comes to my Spanish but I sometimes have moments when I think that mine isn’t completely horrible

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Baseball Memories

In the Bleachers in Baltimore
    "If people don't want to come out to the ballpark, how are you going to stop them?" - Yogi Berra
What I loved about being an Orioles fan back in the day was that a bleacher seat was $4.50 at old Memorial Stadium.  When we had nothing to do we’d head through the bowels of Baltimore and catch a game. We’d sit in the left field line bleachers and watch our mediocre Orioles with a few greats on the team like Cal Ripken and a tornado of a closer called Gregg Olson who in 1989 was the first reliever to win Rookie of the Year. During many games we were like the stadium security, making sure the drunks remained civil and often we would heckle the most obnoxious or profane hecklers.  On one occasion we refereed a skirmish as we sat between some rednecks and a group of preppie punks. When the hicks started to make like they were actually willing to fight over a baseball game we told them to shut the fuck up and watch the game. They did.  At a game against Texas I screamed out at the top of my lungs to their runner on third, Julio Franco, “Julio, I have all your albums!” Granted, not a great joke but the entire left side of Memorial Stadium laughed at it.

My First and Only World Series Game
     "You can't sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock.  You've got to throw the ball over the goddamn plate and give the other man his chance.  That's why baseball is the greatest game of them all. " - Earl Weaver
The Florida Marlins made it to the 1997 World Series after only five years as a team. Bill and I set off for Joe Robbie Stadium for game one without tickets convinced we could get in somehow. Unwilling to pay what the scalpers were charging we were resigned to watching the game on TV in a parking lot beer tent.  After the first inning Bill came back from the can to say that they had opened up another section of the stadium and we got tickets for $20! A great game between Liván Hernández and Orel Hershiser with homers by Moisés Alou and Charles Johnson.  Rob Nen threw the ball over the goddamn plate and got the save. The Fish won 7-4.  To quote James Thurber (in his story of a cigar smoking, beer drinking, trash-talking midget) quoting Casey Stengel, you can look it up.

Loosen Your Tie and Act Your Age
   "How old would you be if you didn't know how old you were?" - Satchel Paige 
   "The trick is growing up without growing old." - Casey Stengel
I like the fact that at a ballgame you can act like a complete idiot and people actually encourage you to do so. When you’re 21 you can act like an idiot anywhere without attracting much attention but at a ballgame even seniors can get crazy. It’s a game where everyone is expected to stand up and sing a silly song. In Seattle after “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” most people remain standing to shake their ass to “Louie Louie” hoping to get captured on the jumbo cam.

The Longest Game of My Life
“The clock doesn't matter in baseball. Time stands still or moves backwards.     Theoretically, one game could go on forever. Some seem to.” - Herb Caen
June 8, 1998. Bill and I again at Joe Robbie stadium to watch the Marlins take on the Toronto Blue Jays in interleague play with Roger Clemens on the mound for the Blue Jays (I didn’t even remember that).  There were 17,414 fans at the start of the game.  17 innings later (and if I remember correctly there was a rain delay) the Marlins prevailed 4-3. That’s ten innings without beer if anyone is counting…and we were. At the end there were less than 300 people in the bleachers if you count Bill and me (like we had anything better to do). A five hour and six minute game; sometimes baseball is hard.