Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Did Sandy Cost Romney the Election?

Based on reported election data, about 50% of US voters are pleased with yesterday's results.  2% are strutting around self importantly for having belligerently defied the two-party system, and 48% are left to wonder what went wrong.

Pundits from both parties are pointing to various "game changing" moments of the spirited campaign.  (Incidentally "spirited" is the post-results replacement for any of the following words: bitter, venomous, vitriolic, damaging, embarrassing, caustic, negative, hostile, disgraceful.)

But, according to one republican voter, none of the gaffes or boons being mentioned is responsible for Mitt Romney's ultimate failure.

Sandy Thompson, a paralegal from Trenton, New Jersey, tearfully divulged to reporters early this morning that during the whole of yesterday's election she was, in fact, not wearing her lucky socks.

"I could have sworn I had them on.", Sandy sobbed to the news crew of WZBN.  "I put them out special on Monday night, but somehow I grabbed the wrong pair on Tuesday morning."

Sandy's friend and neighbor Steven Cooth recalled the moment Sandy realized she was wearing the wrong socks.  "A bunch of us were hanging out a Sandy's house last night watching the results come in.  We were all pulling for Romney, and Sandy was the only one who didn't seem concerned about what was happening.  Every time an update showed Obama pulling further ahead, she just looked at all of us with a knowing expression on her face.  But then, around 10:45 (PM), Beth made a comment about how cute Sandy's socks were.  Sandy looked down and screamed."

According to Sandy, her lucky socks - acquired in 2003 from a Macy's in Woodbourne - have been responsible for two Super Bowl championships, three raises, and a free roast beef sandwich from Arby's.

Sandy stated that she has already written formal apology letters to both the Republican National Committee and Mitt Romney himself.  "I know it's too little too late, but I need them to know how deeply, deeply sorry I am for this."

Concerned about the longevity of her lucky socks, Sandy plans to vacuum seal them in a plastic baggie and store them in her freezer until 2016's election.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Definitive Guide to Running

I am interested in running.  Very interested.  In fact, my interest in running may border on obsession.  Actually, psychologists are in the process of creating a new word that will be to obsession what obsession is to interest, and other psychologists are working on an even newer word that will be to the old new word what the old new word is to obsession.  This new new word will aptly describe my relationship with running.  (For the remainder of this post I will refer to the latter of the two future words as "new-new-word".)

And yet, I have only ever written one and a half blog posts about running. Why? Because there are already exactly 159 kabajillion runners out there maintaining wonderful, well-written, informative blogs about the subject.

So why now?  Well, due to my new-new-word, I have actually read all 159 kabajillion blogs about running - along with news articles, scientific studies, training tips, and everything else returned by a Google search on the word "running". (Incidentally, if your lawnmower has stopped running - try fresh gasoline and a new spark plug.)  Thus, I have inadvertently become the worlds foremost expert on running, and it behooves me to outline the sum of my knowledge for the betterment of all humankind.

Whether you are a full-blown Olympian or on the day's third bag of Cheetos thinking idly to yourself that it might be time to get in shape, this guide is for you.  It is based on more scientific studies, anecdotal hearsay, product claims, and out-of-context absolutes than I could ever possibly cite, so you're going to just have to trust me.

I may write more on the subject later, but in this guide I'll address four key principles that have historically been points of confusion among beginning and seasoned runners alike.

1 - Consistency
The first and most important principle of running is consistency.  Ideally, you will run at least once every day.  Multiple runs each day is best as your body was built to perform rigorously without the need of downtime (cheetah's never take a day off!), but keep in mind that your body needs rest.  Without rest, you run the risk of over training and burnout.  Rest is particularly important after a long race, such as a marathon - which requires a minimum of two weeks respite from running.  But again, be consistent because, no matter how long you have been running, your body will lose literally all of its conditioning in as little as two weeks.  But, a week or two off here and there won't hurt - in fact it can actually help.  Additionally, try not to be too consistent in your training regimen.  Inconsistency can create muscle confusion which accelerates improvement.

2- Nutrition
The second and most important principle of running is nutrition.  What you eat is your fuel.  You wouldn't put garbage in the gas tank of a sports car and expect peak performance [insert "Back to the Future" joke here], and you likewise can't expect your body to perform well when you fill it with less than stellar fuel.

Nature provides the purest possible fuel for the human body.  Your body can best metabolize whole grains and raw fruits and vegetables.  Stay away from gimmicky gels and sports drinks unless they are backed by scientific sounding claims.  Focus on consuming foods high in carbohydrates.  Carbohydrates are the fast-burning fuel your body needs for high-intensity exercise.  Also eat plenty of protein else your body will begin to feed off its own muscles when the quick-burning carbohydrates are depleted.

Remember, while running, your metabolism is like the furnace in a steam engine.  When it's stoked, you can put nearly anything into it and the engine will convert it to fuel, so just make sure you eat a lot of stuff.  But always keep in mind that between the glycogen stored in your muscles and the calories in your fat cells, you will never run out of fuel - even on extraordinarily long runs so, to prevent stomach problems, it's best to not eat anything before or during a run.

After a long run, if you don't consume the perfect combination of protein, carbohydrates and electrolytes within 30 minutes, your brain will dissolve.  The single best post-run fuel is chocolate milk, or a name-brand recovery shake, or sweet and condensed milk, or a Slurpee, but it's sometimes best to forgo the after-workout meal in order to train your body to more efficiently draw on its fat stores.

3- Hydration
Hydration is absolutely the single most important principle of running.  The human body is comprised of between 55% and 90% water, so it is imperative that you stay properly hydrated as you run.  Under hydration can cause headaches, nausea, confusion, seizures and even death, so drink plenty of fluids.  Over hydration can be equally dangerous, so don't over do it.  The key is to drink exactly the right amount.

Water is nature's truest form of hydration for the human body, so always drink plain water unless you have access to pickle juice, or a drink that has been formulated by a team of scientists to hydrate better than water.

4- Improvement
None of us wants to be a slow runner.  The single desire common amongst each and every runner on this planet, except those not concerned with pace, is to become faster.  But what is the best way to improve speed?  Simple, you just have to do aerobic base training and/or lots of hill runs and/or Intense interval training and/or tempo runs and/or proper cross-training and/or barefoot running and/or chi running and/or Yasso 800's and/or proper breathing techniques.  And remember, music is like caffeine - you should always/never rely on it to enhance your performance.


If this guide has failed to answer a question you have about running, please feel free to contact me.  I will do my best to tell you something that sounds like it could be true.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Who Then, If Not the Mayans?

As this fateful year moves forward, nudging the world closer and closer to its presumptive doom on December 21, I'm starting to suspect that the Mayans were full of crap.  Okay, that's not fair.  The Mayans didn't start all this hoopla about the world ending; they just made a calendar.  Okay, that's not fair either.  The Mayans did a lot of things.  They built enormous temples and pyramids, pioneered revolutionary agricultural production methods, studied advanced mathematics with a base 20 numbering system, and cut the hearts out of living people as sacrifice to idol gods.  They also made a calendar.

The Mayan calendar spans a period of 5,126 years and happens to end on December 21, 2012.  To many, this means that the Mayans had privy knowledge about the ultimate fate of the world.  To me, it means that Mayan calendar salesmen didn't have many repeat customers.

I have a calendar hanging on my wall that was created by a civilization much more advanced than that of the Mayans.  My calendar stops on December 31, 2012.  Well, it actually stops on January 31, 2013 if you count the mini January superimposed in the bottom right-hand corner of December.  Does this mean that the maker of my calendar is predicting the world will end next January?  Maybe it does, I've actually never met the man. But we probably won't see many big-budget Hollywood productions pop up based on his calendar.  Why then the Mayans'?  Probably because they carved theirs on a rock.

If people want to prove whether or not the Mayan calendar really is inexorably tied to the fate of the planet, why not check to see if the world began existing on August 11, 3114 BC?  I mean it must have, right?  That's when the Mayan calendar starts.

You may be thinking that I'm just out to bash all the lunatics jumping on the Mayan bandwagon, but I'm really not.  See, as common sense erodes my faith in the Mayans' ability to tell the future, I'm left with a problem.  Who really does know when the world is going to end?  I know a lot of people say we should live our lives as if every day were our last, but that's just not practical.  I certainly wouldn't go to work on my last day in mortality.  I wouldn't worry about retirement planning, exercise, taxes, or even bathing.  It therefore behooves me to find out exactly when the world is going to end, so I can know when to stop wasting my time with all those things.  But whom can I trust to make an accurate prediction?

That question was rhetorical.  Not because it has no answer, but because I already know how to find the answer.  And don't worry, this is scientific.

The current world population is roughly 6.8 billion.  If we have every person on earth make a prediction about the end of the world by picking a distinct day between now and 6.8 billion days from now, we'll have the next 18.6 million years covered.  When the world ends, we'll check the list and see who picked the correct day.  That person will be the person we can trust, and we can start making life plans around his/her prediction. 

But wait! What if the world lasts longer than 18.6 million years from now?  Don't worry. Each new day approximately 490,000 children are born.  As soon they're old enough to point to a number, we'll have them pick a date.  This will extend the number of predicted days by over 1300 years every day.  Using this system, we'll never hit the end.  I mean... until we hit the end.

So hurry up and pick your day because they'll go quick.  We'll reserve December 21, 2012 for the Mayans, and January 31, 2013 for the dude who made the calendar hanging on my wall.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Monday, February 20, 2012

Happy ((Washington's Birthday) - 2)

When my children were younger, their birthday celebrations were rarely on their actual birthdays. We would pick a day that was most convenient for us, and for any possible attendees.

Now that they're older, and somewhat more cognizant of the numbers on a calendar, the kids prefer the celebrations be on the exact dates of their births (or rather the anniversaries thereof).

Makes sense I suppose. I mean, we're celebrating a very specific day. Some people like cake and ice cream, some like piƱatas. Others prefer pinning tails on donkeys or running the celebrant through a tunnel of spankers. The ways to celebrate birthdays are as varied as the individuals being celebrated, but among all these variables, shouldn't the one constant be the date itself? Else why associate the name of the day with birth at all? Why not just have annual, "we're all happy you're still alive" parties?

And so I come to my point. George Washington was born on February 22, and yet we celebrate his birthday on the third Monday in February. Any third grader who has learned how to multiply by seven will be able to deduce that the third Monday in February will never fall on the 22nd. Why couldn't it have been the fourth Monday in February? At least then we would occasionally get it right. And why does it have to be on a Monday at all? Well, as to that, it's because of the "Uniform Monday Holiday Act" - essentially the federal government's way of saying, "Honey I know your birthday is on Wednesday, but Aunt Marge won't be able to come unless we do it on Monday."

Can we please stop treating the father of our country like a two-year-old? He knows when his birthday is. And, though as a rule I am a fan of irony, the fact that the federal government has honored George Washington - a man who fought to establish a less invasive government - by literally taking away his birthday... well, that's so much irony that it cloys in my mouth.

Now, of the five people who will eventually read this post, I'm sure there will be at least one apt to argue that the holiday is called Presidents Day, not Washington's Birthday. To you I say, you're wrong. While some individual states have changed the name internally, the federal holiday is called Washington's Birthday.