Archive for February, 2011


Music Monday: Forgot About Dre

In the past five years I have found myself growing more and more frustrated with the state of rap and hip hop music. What was before a conduit for inner city frustration has now become a way to put porn and self-praise on the airwaves. I hear more about jewelry and “bitches and ho’s” now than I ever did in the late ‘90s or early 2000s. This change marks a shift in target audience from one’s peers in the game to those wealthy enough for clubbing and representing in the night culture.

Recently Dr. Dre came out with his first album since 1999 which he says will also be his last album. Unlike P. Diddy (Puff Daddy) who likes to rap on the albums of his protégés, Dre approaches the role of producer from the background, allowing the talent to speak for itself.

On his new album Dre sticks to the old school formula of respect, representing his crew, and demanding respect from his peers. He sounds almost exactly the same as he did in the 90s when he was collaborating with Tupac and Snoop. His style of rap (known as “West Coast G-Funk”) is more about slow and heavy synthesized beats. The rap world, including his protégé Eminem, have moved on to match the demands of the market or, alternatively, the whims of their fellow artists. His own style seems to be stuck in a world where East and West Coast were at odds and we are expected to give him respect simply because he is Dr. Dre. Nevermind the powerhouses coming out of the ATL (Atlanta) or separate from P.Diddy in New York (Rockefeller Records). Nevermind that rap music now serves as dance music in the clubs and has to be less about the lyrics and more about the 808 track (the repetitiveness of which often makes me turn away from the station in the car).

I found myself listening to the new Dre song and thinking, wow, I did forget about Dre. It transported me back to middle school when California Love was cool and we all wondered who did Biggie in. Despite the nostalgia I am not convinced that Dre can reach the rap audience of today without Eminem or Snoop on the track. I view him as a relic from the past while Eminem and Snoop have kept up with the changes. It makes me wonder how many more years will pass until people ask “Who is that rapping on the track with ______? Dr. Dre? Who is that?”

You have to come out with music more than every 10 years or collaborate with others in that time period to remain relevant. Dr. Dre needs to either remain behind the scenes or go the way of P. Diddy, which is to throw down some “yeahs” and “f&*ks” every couple of songs. Either way we may be losing a link to the history of an art form that was once so influential in American culture and now seems to be becoming a fancy form of elevator music. Come on Dre, make us remember rap’s history and look forward to its future. I wish he had made his last record sound like something revolutionary rather than just Gin and Juice recycled. In my view it is probably better for him to produce than to rap at this point in time because the last thing I want to see is one of the greatest rap producers of the last 20 years fade into lameness.

Fangirl Friday: Final Edition

Okay so I’ve been lazy the past couple of days. The truth is that I feel awful due to the pollen levels in my area and I haven’t been able to do much outside of going to work and lying on the couch trying to breathe. However I am proud to announce that this blog is taking the form of an actual daily blog with the weekends off. I’ve decided on the themes I’d like to use in order to market this as an actual blog.

Music Monday

Teaching Tuesday

Weighty Wednesday

Sexual Thursday

Sports Friday

Who knows? Perhaps I’ll narrow these down further until I find my one passion. For now though you’ll have to wait until my antihistamine kicks in and I’ll see you here for Music Monday. Thanks for being patient as I find my footing here in the blog0sphere.

 

 

A magnificent thing has happened. After almost a month of posts this blog is about to evolve. I have discovered over the past few weeks that all I really have to say on Thursdays is “religion is dumb, run your own lives, take responsibility for your own actions and don’t rely on/blame God for your life’s direction.” While not yet old, it will more than likely become so soon. And so it is with a lightened heart that I release Theological Thursday back into the alliterative universe, and I gain a day to prepare other blogs which I enjoy far more, like Sports Saturday or Teaching Tuesday.

See you tomorrow on Fangirl Friday! Thanks for reading.

Weighty Wednesday: A Bird in the Hand

Take a moment and answer the following question for yourself.

What qualifies as exercise?

Now think about what you see on TV: The Biggest Loser, ads upon ads for diet supplements (see here for a pretty damn funny post about Alli and its side effects), and everything screaming at you to lose the weight in huge amounts as fast as you possibly can. This is the example set for couch potatoes. So our obese population sees extreme exercise as the norm and either tries to exercise that way and fails OR doesn’t even try because they “know” they cannot accomplish such a feat. On top of the personal ability assessment there is the assessment of  cost/benefit, i.e. “If I walk for ten minutes I won’t lose weight and I can’t run, so why bother?” Different exercises are assigned value based on their ability to hurry up and get us skinny. In the same way that we see an actress on tv and say “I wish I looked like that” while understanding that we never will, we look at people exercising at gyms and on tv and say “I wish I exercised” while understanding that we never will.

The truth that I keep returning to every Wednesday is that you have to eat less (and well) and exercise more. This is not very clear for people who may not know how to begin to do these things, especially when working against an exercise stereotype. Try telling someone who weighs 400 pounds that all they have to do is walk, just get up and move that bulk around, for 15 minutes a day in order to lose weight. A doable exercise to be sure, but because it isn’t running a marathon they believe that it can’t truly be exercise so they give up before they begin.

About.com has a great article on Obesity and Exercise and begins nicely by outlining some of the challenges faced by obese individuals when beginning or even simply planning a workout routine. However when Paige (the author) talks about her suggestions for an exercise routine she seems to select mostly expensive options. A personal trainer? An undeniable correlation exists between obesity and poverty (or at least lower middle class) and so many wouldn’t be able to hire Jillian Michaels to come to their home. An exercise ball? Those things (in my humble opinion) are the most awkward exercise prop to ever be invented. I understand the benefits, I understand why they are awesome, but if you are fat using one is an exercise in courage as well as stability. And really how much would I have to spend to get a pedometer that actually records my steps? Perhaps the only viable option is walking (seriously, just taking a walk) or buying a recumbent bike/pedaler to get that cardio in.

I face the same challenges with my exercise. If I’m not sore the next day I don’t feel like what I did was worth the time or the effort. It is difficult to push past the societal definition of exercise to see that everything from walking up stairs in lieu of the elevator or just walking the dog adds up. A 10 minute walk after breakfast and a 10 minute walk after dinner still equals 20 minutes of walking for the day. And honestly I’d rather have 20 cumulative minutes of something than 1,440 minutes of nothing. A small amount of exercise in your hand (or off your thighs) is worth more than all of the preconceived notions and hangups that exist in your head (or in the bush). Take what you can and, well…run with it.

There were many catalysts for the development of free secondary education for all in the United States. At the beginning of the 20th century most high schools had entrance requirements that kept attendance down to less than 5% of the population, but even in these conditions most children were expected to work to support their family after they completed (at the latest) junior high. By the 1940s child labor laws had been passed, mandatory attendance laws and open enrollment had been instituted so that by the 1950s most students were continuing their education through their 12th year. Most educational policies passed since this time have attempted to minimize the dropout rate which has been linked (correctly or otherwise) with economic success, and inversely so. Once students were required to attend, lawmakers decided that it was important for them to produce certain results to show that the government’s  money was being invested wisely, much like a business. Standards based education was instituted with the Goals 2000: Educate America Act, and by 2006 a majority of students in the United Stated had to pass certain tests in order to get out of high school with a diploma. It took the American education system 100 years to get from preventing kids from getting in to high school to preventing kids from getting out. While an issue worthy of attention, it is not the issue at hand.

It is now 2010. We live in a world of redistricting, school closures, possible revocation of teacher tenure, and yet another call to return to math and science education in addition to the overwhelming reading focus we now hold in our elementary schools. Teachers are being held responsible for a student performance problem that is deeply sociological and rooted in the home, and what goes on there is none of your damn business btw. Racial and class issues run deep in the prediction of student performance, and the isolation of inner city and rural schools only seems to be getting worse. Programs within the curriculum are being cut and re-prioritized and said programs can no longer rely on advocacy efforts in the face of financial hardship. Tax cuts in individual states create deficits which in turn are being balanced by cuts to public services, education not being immune.

When you add together financial crisis, poor student performance, standards based education and evaluation, a teacher shortage (a subject for another time), and a politically confused nation, you get a public school system in danger. Upper middle class and higher income families will have the resources to educate their children in the private sector should anything go wrong. But what of the other children? The overwhelmingly black and minority population in the inner city schools? The poor, white rural families who may not be able to get their child to the newly consolidated school and busing gets them home too late to help around the house?

It is completely possible that a large amount of students may be unable to attend public school before long. This could be due to any number of things: too few teachers, school closings, increased drop out rate due to more stringent testing requirements, you name it. What will our government do then? Should we simply allow these children to stay at home until they come of age to work (read: go out and find something to do i.e. cause trouble)? Without the schools to hold all the children who are mandated to attend, at what point will education policies begin to turn back the hands of time? The pendulum seems to be swinging dangerously back to a time when our children were beginning to work between the ages of 9 and 14 instead of between ages 15 and 18. The questions is where they might fit in. Our workforce is no longer a factory based system. I wonder about our farming industry that currently employs a large amount of “illegal” immigrants and migrant workers. I suppose those students could go pick some cotton or press grapes or shuck corn…

This would require adjustments in mandatory attendance laws and the child labor laws that have been in place for 50+ years. Despite this, looking at the current political climate I honestly would not be surprised if we made it there. With bargaining rights in danger of being taken away in Wisconsin and other retroactive legislation coming around the country, I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if some politician finds a way to strip public education and child protections and use beautiful language to take them away. Something like “In an effort to expand the options of our youth they may now enroll in a fine private institution OR opt to make money in our great capitalist system by entering the workforce earlier than our previously oppressive government might have liked them to.” Sounds nice right?

Come on kids, pick your job and learn your trade. You don’t need that oppressive college option. Don’t let the gub’mint tell you what you should do and learn and where you should go. Your social class can do that for you.

Music Monday: Brief Apology

An apology: I had such a good day with my husband yesterday that I totally forgot to post Sexual Sunday and Music Monday this week. I do have posts in progress and they will be posted next week once I put the finishing touches on them. Please excuse the existence of my personal life, as it so rarely interferes. 🙂

Tune in tomorrow for Teaching Tuesday. I promise it will be worth it.

 

 

Sports Saturday: Fantasy Baseball

Spring training has begun in the world of Major League Baseball which signals the time of year that fans start salivating in anticipation for fantasy baseball. A game for fans of baseball as a sport, fantasy baseball allows players to create their own dream team which plays against other teams within a league. Scoring is based on stats chosen by the commissioner of the league and as the season goes on scores adjust based on how the players from across MLB do on a game to game basis. The game encourages players to watch all of baseball as opposed to a single team.

Responsibilities as a team manager include rotating pitchers in and out depending on who is starting, relieving, or closing; rotating positions players in depending on who is playing that game; and picking up new players to replace under-performing or injured players. Duties can also include heckling other managers, but this should be done with care because early in the season the leader board can change at the drop of a hat.

I have been invited to participate in my husband’s league and as the only female I feel a slight amount of pressure to perform. My husband doesn’t understand this because he is a man and highly proficient at the art of fantasy baseball. It’s cool though, I’m going to do my best. The first step for any beginning fantasy baseball manager is to wrap the mind around the stats that you will be held accountable for. In the case of our league those stats are the following:

Batters Stat Categories: Runs (R), Home Runs (HR), Runs Batted In (RBI), Stolen Bases (SB), Strikeouts (K), Total Bases (TB), Batting Average (AVG), On-base Percentage (OBP)
Pitchers Stat Categories: Wins (W), Losses (L), Saves (SV), Strikeouts (K), Holds (HLD), Earned Run Average (ERA), (Walks + Hits)/ Innings Pitched (WHIP), Quality Starts (QS)

Batters’ Stats

We’ll deal with the batters’ stats first. Runs, home runs, RBIs, stolen bases, strikeouts, and batting average are pretty easy for the average baseball fan to understand. Runs are if the player crosses home plate safely, home runs are if he does it in one hit, RBIs are runs that a batter brings in as a result of his at bat (and those players consequently record runs of their own), stolen bases are bases earned not as a result of a hit, strikeouts are when a batter doesn’t get a hit (or a walk), and batting average is just a cool number proving that you can perform at 38% and make millions of dollars (take these lessons to heart high schoolers!).

Two stats that I have not had to track in my one year of experience are total bases and OBP. Just FYI, on base percentage is the number of times a player reaches base divided by the number of times he comes to the plate and total bases is totaled for each at bat: one for each single hit, two for a double, three for a triple, and four for a home run. Thanks Wikipedia!

So when managers research their prospective players they should seek out a good balance of all stats either between players or within the abilities of each player.

Pitchers’ Stats

The pitchers’ stats are a bit more murky, because while the game doesn’t completely rely on the performance of the pitcher he is usually credited with the win or loss. And even those stats aren’t so cut and dried as runs or home tuns. Let’s break it down.

1. Wins: pitcher was pitching while his team took the lead and went on to win

2. Losses: pitcher was pitching while the opposing team took the lead, never lost the lead, and went on to win

*The two above stats aren’t always given to the starting pitcher. If a relief pitcher or a closer meets these requirements they would be awarded the stat.

3. Saves: the pitcher enters a game led by the pitcher’s team, finishes the game without surrendering the lead, is not the winning pitcher, and either (a) the lead was three runs or less when the pitcher entered the game; (b) the potential tying run was on base, at bat, or on deck; or (c) the pitcher pitched three or more innings.

*So Papelbon comes in, the score is 3-2, and he pitches out of the 9th for a Sox win. I think that qualifies as a save…but my husband can correct me on that if not.

4. Strikeouts: If they strike a batter out. Fun part is when a pitcher on the team is pitching against a batter on the team. Which stat do you need more? Want to avoid the strikeout or improve your pitcher’s ERA or strikeout record? Tough decisions.

5. Holds: A stat generally attributed to a relief pitcher but not a closer, it is the number of games a pitcher enters in a save situation, records at least one out, does not surrender the lead, and said pitcher does not complete the game.

6. ERA: total earned runs (runs which did not come about as a result of an error or passed balls) multiplied by 9 and divided by the number of innings pitched. Math = Awesome.

7. WHIP: Good ol’ acronym, (walks+hits)/innings pitched.

8. Quality Starts: Lastly a stat which balances out a loss nicely, a quality start is when a starting pitcher completes at least six innings and permits no more than three earned runs. This pitcher could still earn a loss for the game if the rest of the team isn’t backing him up with runs, but at least he gets some credit for being a good pitcher despite a loss stat.

Next week (if I remember) we will discuss strategy in choosing players and I’ll reveal my top picks for some of the positions. Knowing that only my husband and a few friends read this blog I won’t be giving anything away and honestly the players I have listed are probably on everyone else’s list too. The question is in which round will they choose to take them? See you next week.

Fangirl Friday: Yoga

For overweight individuals exercise can seem daunting. Too much causes pain which brings need for rest and then (more than likely) loss of routine. Too little may bring self-deprecation in that they wish they could do more but can’t because they are overweight. Most people, overweight and otherwise, equate exercise with sweat drenched individuals who are moving fast and furious through their work out routine. The truth is that walking is just as beneficial, if not more so, for weight loss in overweight individuals, but it often falls into the category of “I’m not sweating, so how can this be helping?”

When I exercise I like to feel it, either in my muscles or in my sweat. However I definitely fall into the overweight category so I have to be careful about how much I do. Wanting to continue my running from before I gained all of this weight (see Weighty Wednesday: Fat Together for the how to on couple weight gain!) I have been signing up for 5Ks every 5 to 6 weeks to motivate me to step on the treadmill. This wasn’t enough though, and I sought out an exercise activity that would be more gentle on my joints and muscles and maybe offer up some inner peace as well.

After the new year turned I decided to try yoga. An expensive activity to be sure, but one which offered me the chance to become more flexible while I worked on my cardio with the running. I thought it to be an excellent balance and I was right. Going to yoga gives me a chance to clear my head and to challenge myself in ways that I couldn’t in my running routine. I’m gaining strength and balance while learning to control my self-talk and center my thoughts. It’s peaceful and difficult at the same time. I’m finding that after a month and a half of running and doing yoga, at the end of a work day I can ask my body what it needs and rely on it to tell me Yoga, Running, or Rest. I’m not lazy about exercise anymore because I have found a balance that I enjoy and makes me proud of myself in that I am constantly overcoming reasonable challenges.

I am now a huge fan of yoga, but my weight almost certainly affects my ability to practice it fully. The size of my thighs interferes with things like Child’s Pose and my butt definitely hinders my ability to complete a modified inversion with a chair (I fell onto the floor the other night!). Still, despite this continuing hindrance I am enjoying my practice. At the end of February I will more than likely be ready to re-evaluate my dieting practices and possibly rejoin Weight Watchers for the third time in an attempt to bring my body into balance like I have brought my physical activity into balance. Honestly this may be the best way to approach weight loss since all I ever hear is that people have trouble finding the time to exercise. Once you’ve found the time for that, you always have time to eat right? Do the hard stuff first and the rest will come easier.

But I digress. Yoga can be a little hippie-dippie (get ready for vegan speak and a whole talk of talk about kale, ugh) but if my local yoga studio is any indication, practicing yoga is good for children all the way up to old men and how you approach your own practice is completely up to you. I won’t be giving up hamburgers anytime soon, but I will be continuing to attempt Triangle or Pigeon’s Pose. Most studios will let people try one session for free so go and challenge yourself while finding a little slice of inner peace. You might be surprised at how much you enjoy it. I know I was.

Last week while I was alone at home after a day at work (my husband was out of town for work) I set to singing all of my favorite songs to sing. I’m very self conscious about singing in front of others but I LOVE to sing and I’m pretty good at it so when I’m alone I spend a lot of time working out the ol’ vocal chords. As I was selecting different songs to play I came across Carrie Underwood’s “Don’t Forget to Remember Me.” Yes, yes, I know. Country sucks, blah blah blah. So does rap and holy jesus if I have to hear one more word about Jus.tin Bie.ber…

I like rap, I love jazz, and I like some country. Underwood’s song talks about a girl who leaves home at 18 to pursue (insert your own experience here) and her mom asks her to not forget to remember home, explains in the second verse that she misses home but still feels like she’s where she needs to be and asks her family to not forget to remember her, and finally she speaks to God (the Christian one, this is country music we’re talking about) and asks that even though there are lots of other more important things that he not forget to remember her.

Even the most self-sure of us have moments where we wish someone cared about us and our well-being and not all of us have family or good friends to rely on. I would guess that this is when some people turn to God, also known as the Great Friend. Inventing an imaginary friend is a common response to loneliness or boredom, children do it all the time. I remember swimming around a kiddie pool in our backyard when I was really little imagining that the characters from Zoobilee Zoo were watching, impressed with my ability to swim in circles. The difference is that the characters didn’t insist that gays were the devil or that everyone who didn’t believe they were there would go to hell.

I completely understand the need for comfort, especially in times of loneliness or illness. When I sing the Carrie Underwood song I ALWAYS choke up on the line where she says “and make sure you tell Daddy that I’m still his little girl” because sometimes I really miss my dad. Everyone wants someone there to say how awesome they are doing or to tell them that everything is going to be okay. God doesn’t do that. People don’t hear God talk, they pretend they do. When they want to think God is speaking to them through something or someone, their saying it makes it so and in the end they are doing what they want to do and using their invention of “God” to justify their actions. The God they speak of is only themselves comforting or motivating themselves, it’s just more comforting if they pretend it’s coming from an outside source because it’s too scary to think that they have to be responsible for themselves. Admitting that there is no one there is also admitting to being alone, and to many humans that is a frightening way to be.

So if you have time to yourself and you find yourself feeling lonely, think about how lucky you are to be in control of your own life, your own decisions, your own future. That you can decide how to react to situations and if you want to go down a different path you can. Find a way to be comfortable with your abilities and your future. Don’t play make believe to get yourself through. Make yourself stronger emotionally and intellectually and you can make it through without illusions or pretending. More than likely if you do these things no one who truly cares about you will forget to remember you.

Weighty Wednesday: Simple Physics

Have you ever heard the age-old saying “muscle weighs more than fat”? I hear it all the time. I heard it when I went to Weight Watchers meetings, I’ve read it in magazines and weight loss blogs, and the most popular way to state it is “a pound of muscles weighs more than a pound of fat.”

Seriously, read that again: ONE POUND of muscle weighs more than ONE POUND of fat.

Let me re-write that with something different. One pound of cereal weighs more than one pound of pancakes. How about one pound of marbles weighs more than one pound of lunch meat. These all weigh THE SAME AMOUNT. Can we agree on that?

So why do so many people believe that one pound of muscle weighs more than one pound of fat, or simply that muscle weighs more than fat? The answer is in the volume of the muscle and fat. One pound of muscle takes up less space than one pound of fat. This blogger explains the phenomenon very well and includes pictures! So the way I look at 250 pounds will be different than someone else my same height looks at 250 pounds depending on how much of that weight is fat and how much is muscle. What may be more important than how much you weigh is what your body fat percentage is. Then again I like to subscribe to the idea that it is all important: your weight, your body fat percentage, your BMI, your activity level. You can’t focus on just one aspect. You have to keep track of everything.

All of that aside the lesson of the day is that one pound of muscle weighs exactly the same as one pound of fat, it just takes up less space. If you want to lose weight eat less (and balanced) and move more. The end.