Archive for December, 2003

I hope everyone had a great Christmas!!

I spent the holidays with family mostly. The presents both given and received were great. The food was abundant and delicious. I am thankful that everyone has remained relatively healthy another year…even my 17 year old dog. And finally, I am happy for the time together and also happy that it only comes once a year.

Overall life during the holidays has been slow and enjoyable, if a little boring…much like life not during the holidays. I got some nice stuff for Christmas even though I didn’t ask for anything. I have everything I need and more materially.

I just really have nothing to say right now. I think I’ll go watch Saturday Night Live.

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I’ve been sick the last few days with a head cold that I always get in December. I’ve often wondered if perhaps I’m allergic to Christmas trees or dust from the decorations in the attic. The only times in recent memory that I’ve escaped my Christmas time head cold were those when I came home from travelling.

Anyway, the best way to get rid of congestion is to exercise. It comes back afterwards, but for a few hours you feel all better.

Some folks I know asked me to play for their basketball team last night. I figure that in a not so distant future I will be tempted to talk about how good I used to be. You know that conversation when older people say they “used to” be able to do this or that? I never much liked it. I “used to” wet the bed. Am I supposed to give them a lollipop for what they can no longer do?

I am as good as I ever was, probably better. I didn’t “used to” be able to do anything I can do right now, though I suffer more aches and pains that I did at 18.

When is that desire to be better not a wish for improvement but an inability to let go of the past? After all, one cannot be always better at everything ad infinitum. One must reach a peak.

And I think I’ve reached mine. I’m happy to say it was very late for me. I am approaching 30 and I’m arguably in the best shape of my life.

The game went well. We won and I poured in 28 points in a short game. If it had been an NBA length game and I’d continued to score at the same pace (not likely), I’d have scored 50. It is fun.

That feeling, the one where we climb the beanstalk and rescue the princess, is one I wish we all felt more often. We forget about it as we get older and it makes us dull…unwilling to risk because we’ve forgotten the reward. Or maybe we don’t forget as we get older, but the forgetting makes us older.

I know I’ve given up a lot to live my life. I wake up everday to the trades I’ve made. I occasionally envy others for what they’ve been able to build and for their ability to be satisfied with it….an ability I fear I lack.

And so I often wonder what I’ve earned by prolonging this part of my life, the one where you are young and all the possibility in world still lies before you, where you are still as good as you’ll ever be at everything you’ve ever done.

With a smile I can say I feel it is its own reward.

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Dear Readers:

I have been lazy about writing lately. Corina complained that my posts are too long anyway. I contend that her attention span is too short.

Greenville is much the same as it ever was. I am still looking for work and have a few things on the horizon, but it is useless to talk about it until something actually happens.

I have twice written about obesity in this journal, both times as a response to Mr. BigFatBlog who maintains a website promoting fat acceptance.

He wrote me again today. The exchange is posted in the Comments section of these two posts: 02/08/03 and 02/26/03. The rest of today’s entry is better understood if you’ve read the other two, but it isn’t absolutely necessary.

I have always meant to write a piece about the obesity epidemic in the US. Everyone knows I have been to a lot of countries and I can easily say Americans are noticeably fatter than the rest of the world…although other countries are catching up.

Here is my opinion as to why we are so fat and why the rest of the planet will become more so in the coming years unless something is done. I wrote this email to Paul today. He maintains


Everyone has that idea for which they are willing to go down with the ship. This seems to be yours.

You skill with rhetoric is admirable. You seem to have well developed opinions and you express them well…..but no amount of skill will persuade the world that fat is ok. None. Give it up. If this is the idea for which you are willing to go down with the ship….then you just bought your ticket to the bottom.

In fact, the fatter the general population gets, the more desirable it will be to be thin.

Can you change the opinion of the world? I don’t think so, but you are welcome to try.

I stand by the statement that your time is much better served in losing weight than in trying to shift world views.

I am sure you’ve tried. You say diets don’t work. I agree, the research is extremely clear on that point.

But the fact is that our caloric intake has not changed much in the past 50 years. Yet we are much fatter.

The difference is in our lifestyles. 50 years ago over 90% of folks worked in manufacturing or agriculture. These jobs required manual effort and burned calories. Kids played outside because there was literally nothing else to do.

Now 70% of the economy is in the service sector. We do nothing at work more physical than walk to the bathroom. Kids play video games and chat online. Our lifestyle no longer burns calories.

I am not much into placing blame, but the epidemic of obesity and the myriad of health and social problems that come with it has been caused by the monetization of America….and the time poverty that comes with it.

40% of the US labor force works 50 hours or more a week. We work more than any other industrialized country in the world: on average 9 weeks longer per year than Western Europe.

We’re too tired at the end of the day to take exercise and our jobs no longer require us to do anything but punch keys or answer a phone. We went from 8 hours of manual labor per day to 10 hours of sitting on our butts at an office. No wonder we are fat.

And as for children, they used to play outside. But playing outside is cheap. It doesn’t cost anything to go play catch with a friend.

At some point marketing identified kids as a demographic with disposable income and pushed them an endless stream of diversions that compete with outside play. These products simply didn’t exist in the past.

Their parents buy them the crap because they feel guilty about not spending enough time with their kids because they’re at work all day. The fact is they have the money to spend on useless diversions, but not the time to make sure their kids live a healthy lifestyle. In many Western European nations it is illegal to advertise to children.

In short, forget changing world opinion and forget diets. Go join a basketball league or a runners club….if you can find the time to do it.

If you trade all the time you spend defending fatness with time spent exercising, you’d find you no longer needed to make such a defense.

If you prefer your current lifestyle, by all means, continue it…and I will continue to enjoy your website =)

Happy Holidays,

Elliott Dykes

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Lets do some math:

40% of the US labor force works 50 hours or more a week. American men average 49.4 hours a week on the job. As I’ve stated before, the United States works more than any other industrialized country in the world: on average 9 weeks longer per year than Western Europe. We passed Japan in the mid-1990s. The Japanese work so much they have a word for death by overwork: Karoshi.

And yet we proudly work more than they do. I often hear it when I ask people how they are: “Busy,'” they say. As if “busy” has replaced “good” or “fine” as a positive mental state.

People are happy with themselves when they have to check their calender for availability…..and find a spot a week or more out. Our friends are no longer the people we spend the most time with, but the ones who most understand why we don’t have the time to spend.

So here comes the math part:

50 hours a week is 10 hours a day.
The average work commute is 72 minutes a day.
Let’s say eating takes up 1.5 hours. I think that is a fair estimate.
We are now at 12.75 hours in a day.
Lets sleep for 8 hours (wishful thinking).
We are now at 20.75 hours in a day….lets round it off to 21 hours.

You now have 3 hours to brush your teeth, take a shower, shave, pay bills, make phone calls, read a book, plan a vacation, mow the lawn, iron your clothes, shop for a present, fix the grill, walk the dog, read the mail, shop for new insurance, do your taxes, watch some TV, and take a shit. The fact is those 3 hours are easily eaten up just maintaining your life.

And now you are out of time. 24 hours is gone.

You still haven’t relaxed, spoken to your children at all, or spent a second with your wife. Nor have you volunteered in the community, spent time with any of your friends or extended family, gone to church, or gotten a minute of exercise.

I am a bit of an environmentalist. I like it when the tree-huggers point out that you can’t just keep taking from the Earth. The Earth is a limited resource. It will run out if we don’t allow it to replenish. It is common knowledge and, while we don’t act in accordance, at least we acknowledge the fact.

Time is also a limited resource. There are only 24 hours in a day. To me it is common sense, but somehow it is not common knowledge.

Work+Transit+Food+Sleep+Life Maintenance = about 24 hours. And you haven’t spent a minute with your kids, wife, family, friends, or, perhaps most importantly, with yourself. You haven’t gotten one lick of exercise or wasted the first minute daydreaming.

The only one of the necessary inputs that can be changed appreciably is sleep hours, but lack of sleep damages the very aims you are trying to accomplish by getting less of it. We are not robots.

All this while cell phones and email and the myriad of other productivity enhancing devices are said to save us time. Don’t do me any favors!! If they save me any more time I’ll be sleeping 3 hours a night and end up in therapy.

Where is all this time supposed to come from?

The Environmentalists have a whole movement behind them, trying to Save the Earth and the Whales and the Rainforest. It is a noble goal. Recycle, buy Organic stuff, give to Greenpeace….whatever floats your boat.

Where is the Save the People movement? The one where we acknowledge 25% of Americans took no vacation at all last year, that dual income families spend 12 minutes a day talking to each other, and that more work hours in industrial countries is directly related to increased rates of murder, rape, suidice, divorce, pollution and mental illness?

Not only is there no movement to take back our lives, but we seem at least superficially happy with being overscheduled.

“How’s it been going?”

“Aww….you know, just staying busy.”

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