Dieting in January, and Other Crazy Notions



SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK

            In my eagerness to be loved, I signed up in mid-January for a two week weight challenge.

            Well, it must be in my eagerness to be loved, because I can’t imagine any other reason why I’d do it.

            Originally I thought it was a challenge to see how much weight you could gain in two weeks. I mean, what else can you do in January? Ice fish? That’s like sticking your hair in a fan or trusting politicians – just crazy. (I’m looking at you, Harry.)

            On the other hand, I generally spend the holidays eating, so I’ve pretty much put on my layer of fat by the time really cold weather strikes. After all, that’s the whole point of the Thanksgiving-through-New Year’s period. You gain weight, get sick, pile blankets in the oven, then sleep there in a fetal position until March.

            It’s only sensible.

            Imagine my reaction when I found out I was supposed to lose weight. Not only that, but I was expected to eat well, and exercise for at least twenty minutes a day, five days per week.

            Well, that makes no sense. Exercising in January is dangerous. You might slip on the ice and shatter a frozen limb. You might breathe too hard and cut up your lungs with ice crystals.

            Worst of all, you might actually drop weight and thus lose some of fat’s insulating qualities. What am I supposed to do – wear everything I own whenever I’m forced to go outside? I already do that. By the time I’m dressed for outside I’m six feet tall and seven feet wide, waddle like an obese penguin, and could be hit by a snowplow without noticing. We had to widen our home’s doors. I even grew a beard … which hasn’t helped much.

            Still, in the end I don’t mind widening my doors due to layering, but I’m not thrilled about having to do it while also tying three belts together to reach around my waist. In other words, I need to be ready for Speedo season.

            (Which is just an expression, by the way: You will never see me in a Speedo. Depending on how much money I’m offered.)

            The first three days were easy, because we had unusually warm weather: I took the dog for walks, and that always lasts more than twenty minutes because he drags me after every animal scent within half a mile. Instead of stretches, I had only to bend down with plastic bags to pick up his little presents. Although with a dog that size, the presents were never little.

            Then reality hit.

            Reality, in Northern Indiana during January, hits at below freezing temperatures.

            We made it outside to about 25 degrees, thanks to the joys of layering and the fact that the dog keeps us moving fast. In fact, I’d even start sweating while on those walks, which caused me to unzip my coat, which caused me to have to use a rubber mallet to break the ice off my chest. And sweat doesn’t freeze until it hits twenty degrees, because of the salt. True story.

            Explaining to the doctor how my chest got both frostbite and broken ribs was a chore, but he’s used to it by now.

            It turns out brisk walking only counts as moderate exercise, even when you’re being dragged around town by a dog so big many people are still convinced he’s part wolf. I burned fewer calories in twenty minutes than I consume in one chocolate bar, not that I eat those anymore and stop looking in my desk drawer! Still, if you also eat a well-balanced diet, with stuff that’s green but not from age, you’ve got a good chance of coming out of January a little lighter than you went into it.

            Seriously, it could happen.

            Also included in the program are some recipes, which we were to try out, and tell how they are if we survive. I haven’t tried them yet, mostly because my idea of following a recipe includes the words “Microwave on high for 2 ½ minutes”, but the wife is eagerly looking forward to checking them out and, I must admit, they look pretty good. Both contain the one big thing you need to make a meal taste good: Meat.

            Eating a meal with no meat is like reading a Playboy Magazine with no pictures, if you can picture that.

            We have been eating a lot more veggies and fruit lately – even the dog, who as a result has learned to utilize his “puppy dog” look to the best advantage. That gets him treats, while my puppy dog look does nothing. Apparently you have to be a puppy dog.

            The other difference is, he’s not fat.

            Neither am I, all that much, but my wife has been concerned ever since I got a high cholesterol reading. This goes to show, you’re much happier if you don’t know you’re going to die. My cholesterol is down, but I could stand to lose a couple of dozen pounds, which would make it easier to stand. I suppose there’s a cause and effect thing going on, too: If I drop that layer of fat, I’ll have to exercise even more just to stay warm.

            Who knew winter could make you healthy?

When Canadians Rule The Earth

SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK
            (I wrote this back in 2005, but news of an arctic air mass heading this way made me think of it again. Also, I couldn’t write a new column … my fingers are frozen.)

            My friend, who I’ll call Howie Dunnit, has some interesting ideas.  For instance, he was the first to come up with the concept of reality television, many years ago.  He wanted to take the ten celebrities he hated the most, put them on an island with large ravenous beasts, and film them trying to survive.
            You can see he was way ahead of his time.
            Anyway, the other day Howie stopped by and said, “I’ve come up with a plan to solve our nation’s biggest problem.”
            What? I asked.  You mean the war on terror?
            “No, no – that’s not our biggest problem.”
            Hurricane relief?  Red ink spending?  The Kardashians?
            “I’m talking about our porous border, and how all those people are coming into America because of it.”
            Oh!  Well, solving the socioeconomic difficulties that have led to Mexicans leaving their nation to begin with would –
            “I’m not talking about that, man.  Illegal immigration from the South is a problem we’re aware of.  I’m talking about something much more insidious, an invasion of our country that nobody’s even willing to acknowledge.  I’m talking about Canada.”
            Canada?
            “Sure.  Look at all those people coming down from Canada, taking American jobs, using our resources, slowly acclimating us to their culture.”
            Their culture?  But isn’t their culture pretty close to our culture?
            “It is now.  That’s what makes it insidious, dummy.  They’re reaching the highest levels of our society, and before you know it they’ll just take over!  I mean, our young people are already worshiping them!  Canadian singers, Canadian actors, Canadian starship captains –“
            Say what?
            “William Shatner.  He’s a Canadian, and what’s the biggest science fiction franchise of all time?  Not Star Wars, no – Star Trek.  With a Canadian captain, and oh, by the way, a Canadian chief engineer.”
“I thought he was Scottish.”
“You’ve got Shania Twain for the county music freaks, Jim Carrey for the comedy fans, Pamela Anderson for the … well, you know.”
            They sure know how to grow ‘em in Canada.
            “It’s been going on for years.  Steppenwolf!  Rush!  Tommy Chong and his daughter, Rae Dawn!”
            Sounds like they have issues, all right.
            “They’re continuing their infiltration, only now it’s getting worse.  They’re turning our young girls into belly baring, mad at the world singers with attitude, a la Avril Lavine.  They’re making terms that used to be scandalous sound normal – Barenaked Ladies.  Don’t even get me started on Peter North.  And Howie Mandel – tell me, how could we ever forgive them for Howie Mandel?”
            Cash payments?
            “There are lists of them, huge lists of Canadians who are taking over every aspect of America.  Did you know Alexander Graham Bell was a Canadian?”
            Seems to me he helped us out quite a bit.
            “But suppose they decide to take all that technology back?  No more phones!”
            No more salesmen.
            “That annoying little punk on the Star Wars movies, Anakin whatshisface?  Played by a Canadian.  Hugh Hefner’s ex-wife?  Canadian. At least one of them. How many American women could have had that job?”
            Maybe he ran out of American women.
            “Tom Green, buddy.  Tom Green.”
            My gosh, let’s kill ‘em all.
            “Exactly.  Keanu Reeves.  Lorne Green.  Leslie Nielsen.  Lorne Michaels brought, like, every Canadian comedian ever known to work on Saturday Night Live. And k.d. Lang, the lesbian singer who doesn’t know how to capitalize?  Canadian.”
            Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
            “Jack Kerouac – turned a whole generation of American teens into druggies.”
            Never proven, friend.
            “Gimmie a break.  Peter Jennings?  Canadian, giving American news to Americans.”
            That explains a lot.
            “Brendan Fraser.  Michael J. Fox.  Glenn Ford.  Raymond Burr.  Dan Aykroyd.  How many American actors would have gotten jobs, if they hadn’t come in and snatched those jobs away?”
            I’d say, at least five.
            “And Celine Dion, man – Celine Dion!  Tell me it’s not a conspiracy.”
            Hey, I like Celine Dion.
            “Oh, no – they’ve got you too!  You’ve been sucked in.  We have to act.”
            Okay, fine – what do you propose?
            “Invasion.”
            Say what?
            “First we tell all those Canadians they have to go back to their own country.  They won’t, of course – have you seen the average temperatures up there?  That’s our excuse. We declare war and clean their clocks.”
            Are you kidding me?  We’re already fighting a war, where would we get the manpower?
            “That’s the beauty of it.  First, we reinstitute the draft.  You know all those draft dodgers who always head to Canada?  We just hand them rifles and send them on up.  Meanwhile, the native people of Alaska are having trouble maintaining their lifestyles because the ice cap is melting, so they’re getting hungry – we hand them guns too, and invade from two directions.  Before you know it, we’re toasting our victory with Canadian beer in Toronto, over Pierre Trudeau’s moldering corpse.”
            Uh –
            “You could get Shannon Tweed as a war trophy.”
            Oh, okay.  No, wait.  I’ve got friends in Canada.  Besides, they’ve been great neighbors for hundreds of years, with a couple of lamentable exceptions.  They’re a good, freedom loving, peaceful people, and they’ve got great bacon.
            “Trust me; in fifty years they’ll have totally forgotten they weren’t always a part of the US of A.  Do Texans sit around thinking, ‘Gee, remember the good times when we were Mexico’?”
            Well, not all of them.  But look, I can’t support this.  Defending ourselves against attack, yes.  Fighting to free people from a dictator, I can accept.  But attacking a democracy because they’re too similar to us?  That’s ridiculous.
            “You know … every winter they send their arctic cold air fronts right into Indiana.”
            Huh?
            “Weather control, son.  Canadian air masses are what bring winter to the Midwest.  It’s a plot to keep winter hating humor columnists in a deep freeze for half of every year.”
            Nuke the SOB’s.
            “Now we’re talking.”

Cold Snap

Drinking hot chocolate -- thanks to a gift from my sister Penny -- and trying to stay warm until time to go to work. Seven degrees F, last time I checked. It took me about half an hour this morning to finish cleaning the garage enough to get the car into it, and another half an hour to get it parked inside without taking a mirror off or leaving me stuck in the car. That's what you get when your garage used to be a horse stall or carriage house. At least there's plenty of room in the hay loft -- I mean, garage attic.

I believe the wind chill factor is in the area of minus fifteen, as of 10 p.m.

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Spoiler Alert: Trending Word Ban on Bucket LIst



SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK

            The Lake Superior State University 2013 list of banished words is up, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about it.

            (I’ve dedicated myself in this new year to using one word every column that I don’t usually use, thus the “remiss”. And the “thus”. Guess I’m ahead, now.)

            I know what you’re thinking: Why is it Lake Superior State University, coming up with this list? Well, have you ever been to the area of Lake Superior in January? Believe me, there’s nothing else to do unless you like skiing. It’s so cold that every year they get reports of dozens of frostbitten snowmen. (The snowwomen are too smart to go out in that.)

            The first banned word I want to mention is YOLO, which I discovered two minutes ago stands for “You Only Live Once”. This is untrue. James Bond proved that You Only Live Twice.

            It seems people are using the expression YOLO to do things that smarter people would not do, under the theory that hey – you only live once, so might as well go for it! (I’m fairly sure “go for it” has also been banned.) Well, they’ve got it backward. If you only live once, then you might want to stop doing stupid things so you can live longer.

            Superfood”.

It’s what Superman eats. If you know anything about Superman, you understand why he doesn’t eat greens, and also why his friendship with Green Lantern and Green Arrow fizzled. On a related note, I’ll bet the term “his kryptonite” has also been banned.

            Boneless wings”.

I don’t have a clue why this term – it’s a term, by the way, not a word – bothers people. I’m sure chickens don’t like it.

            Guru”.

An expert at something should apparently not be called a guru, unless he’s, for instance, teaching transcendental meditation. Hey – I’m up three on my seldom used words!

            Trending”.

I believe this originally came from Twitter, where if a certain hashtagged word becomes popular, it’s said to be trending. They jumped the shark when “trending” trended. “Jump the shark?” Yeah, gotta be banned.

            Bucket List”.

What do you want on your bucket list before you die? Apparently you want the end of the term bucket list. It comes from the old expression “Kick the bucket”, as in “What’s on your bucket list to do before you kick the bucket?”

            “Well, I want to sell my bucket collection.”

            Spoiler alert”.

If you’re about to give away some big secret, especially related to a TV show or movie, it’s considered polite to give people spoiler alerts so they can stop reading, listening, watching, or having Toddlers and Tiaras downloaded directly into their brains. (Spoiler alert! The toddlers will grow up to need major therapy.)

            Again, I’ve never been bothered by that particular term, although I do get upset at myself because I often keep reading, anyway. Still, it’s been used so often that it’s apparently jumped the shark. As has “jump the shark”.

            Passion/passionate”.

It was great to say “tracking down Nazi war criminals is my passion” (although that’s not such a popular pastime these days). It was okay to say “Skydiving is my passion”, as it’s definitely off the beaten track – an expression that’s been beaten to death. However people started losing their – ahem – passion for the word when it became overused, as in “Lunchmeat is my passion” or, for soap opera fans, “’Passion’ is my passion”.

            Job creators/creation”.

            Job creators used to be people who went out, worked their butts off starting or maintaining a business, and became successful enough to hire people to work for them. Those people are now heaped in with various not so savory characters under the phrase “The rich”, which should probably be on this list, and the Federal government now claims to be a job creator, even though if it was a business it would be in bankruptcy.

            If that’s not reason enough to ban the term, I don’t know what is.

            Double Down”.

            Apparently, in this context, it means “repeat”, or “reaffirm”. Used too often in politics, it’s actually a blackjack term … hm. Gambling and politics, maybe it does fit.

            Kick the can down the road.”

            I want to reiterate (four words ahead!) that each individual word is not banned – just the phrase. I’m not sure I could make it through the day without using the “the”.

            The problem with this phrase is that politicians on all sides accuse everyone else of kicking various cans down the road, when in reality they’re all complicit in doing it. So we should kick their cans.

            Complicit? Five! I don’t have to use any more big words until March.

            Fiscal Cliff”.

            Ah, my favorite. I used to use it to refer to the entire problem of government overspending, but over the last few months it came to refer to one specific deadline that Congress, striving hard with only two year’s warning, staved off just hours after their final deadline. Bully them!

            The problem is that it’s not properly descriptive. A cliff is generally something in nature, while the Federal debt problem is manmade; therefore, the actual term should be maybe “fiscal concrete wall”, although that doesn’t flow nearly as well.

            On the other hand, fiscal cliff is accurate in that instead of veering away from it, Congress left us dangling over the side, hoping the rope won’t break and make us jump the fiscal sharks below. And there’s a fiscal storm coming, so the rope will be getting fiscally slippery.

Oh, that reminds me – I want to add a term of my own to the banished words list:

Weather event”.

I’m not buying tickets to a snowstorm.