Saturday, November 24, 2007

Putting the ped back into pedestrian -- with or without a pedometer

Putting the Ped Back in Pedestrian
Time to start walking off those holiday calories -- and, in my case, those six additional pounds I picked up with the munchies that replaced my cigarette habit two years ago. Could be worse, but on the other hand, I wasn't exactly a beanpole when I stopped. For me, it's pretty simple -- walk at least 45 minutes a day, or gain weight. Walk more than 45 minutes a day, and lose weight. It's as simple as that (plus, of course, cutting down on the trips to the snack machine at the same time). It's time to start taking it off again, even if the approach of winter makes me want to curl up in bed and pull the blanket over my head.

Some people find a mechanical aid like a pedometer a useful motivator. It doesn't do much for me (I've tried, and for me, the total number of steps is irrelevant -- I already know what I need to do), but if you're interested, the NYT health blog had an interesting discussion of pedometers the other day, especially in the comments, where readers talked about their experience with different kinds of pedometers. It seems that 10,000 steps per day is the magic number.
In a review of more than two dozen studies, researchers at Stanford University found that people who used pedometers to monitor their daily activity walked about 2,000 more steps every day, or about one extra mile, compared to those who weren’t counting steps. People who used pedometers also showed statistically meaningful drops in body mass index and blood pressure.


Once pedometers were used primarily to map distances during exercise. Now health experts are advising people to wear the devices daily in order to monitor all their steps, including the most routine ones, like those taken while walking to the car. National fitness programs encourage people to take at least 10,000 steps a day.
If worrying about weight isn't your thing, there's another reason to get up off your duff. A growing body of research shows that vigorous exercise like brisk walking slows cognitive decline with aging, reduces Alzheimer's risk and promotes the growth of neurons in the hippocampus, which governs short-term memory.

Friday, November 23, 2007

That worked so well last time, didn't it?

That Worked So Well, Didn't It?
I get so fed up with the Democrats. They won control of both houses of Congress a year ago, in an election that was a referendum on Bush, the war and the status quo. What have they done in the year since then? The war drags on, the Democrats have offered no meaningful resistance to Bush, and the status quo continues. I think of it as the Year of Living Irrelevantly, because there's not much any of us can do to influence events when the party that should be the party of change in Washington has postponed any real change until next year's election. Bush can pretty well do what he wants until then. Who's going to stop him? That's when, in a moment of weakness, I start thinking that our two-party system is really a one-party system, the party of money and special interests. Democrat, Republican -- what difference does it make? And that's when a blast from the past like this can remind me of what's at stake. It really does make a difference which flawed, imperfect and ridiculously compromised party we choose. Just look at the last seven dreadful years.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

'Twas the night before Thanksgiving and all through the park not a creature was stirring

Magic Happening in Wingra Park the Night Before Thanksgiving
Madison had its first snowfall of the season. A little more than an inch, just a dusting really, but it was enough to paint the grass white in Wingra Park and turn the night into a magical, mysterious dreamscape on the eve of Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Santa arrives when? Happy Thanksgiving!

Santa Arrives When? Happy Thanksgiving!
Progress - ain't it great? First they tear down one of my favorite theaters, and now they move up Santa's arrival by more than a month. For what -- efficiency? Oh, never mind... November 23rd is, of course, the day after Thanksgiving, when the Christmas shopping season begins in earnest everywhere except the megastores that will actually be open on Thanksgiving Day for the really crazed bargain hunters. The 23rd is the day Santa comes to Hilldale Shopping Center. Happy Thanksgiving, and enjoy the long weekend!

Monday, November 19, 2007

First the cute little Parking Wizard pays a visit, but after that they send the Memory Tax Collector

First the Parking Wizard Visits, Then They Send the Memory Tax Collector
The Parking Wizard stopped by our neighborhood early this morning and dropped off these flyers about winter parking, including the alternate-side parking rules that are in effect through mid-March. The warning flyer, adorned with a whimsical portrait of Mr. Wizard by Madison cartoonist P. S. Mueller, was part of our kinder and gentler enforcement policy. But after this the gloves come off and the Memory Tax Collector starts taking his bite at about $20 a pop. (The funny thing was, I'm so prone to alternate-side parking guilt, that I assumed the flyer stuck under my wiper was a new, more graphic orange ticket, and that I was parked on the wrong side. Then I realized that everyone had one, and anyhow, I was on the right side.)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

New traffic calming islands on Edgewood Avenue: Expect the fun to begin when the first snow falls

New Traffic Calming Islands on Allen Street: The Fun Starts When the First Snow Falls
I passed this fairly new traffic calming island on Edgewood Avenue yesterday, where I was driving by force of habit with my reptile brain and had to swerve at the last minute to avoid hitting it. I know, I know -- the idea is that these little mini roundabouts will slow down speeders in residential neighborhoods by forcing Madison drivers to cut their speed in order to navigate around them. All very well, when you can see them. All I can think of is, what happens with the first good snow cover, when drivers can't see them? I see a lot of broken axles in the future of Edgewood Avenue.

12.13.07 UPDATE: Yes, they really are invisible in the snow. Also, what about the snowplows?