Pants on Fire

George Washington’s birthday falls on February 22.  Today, four days early, we’ll honor the father of our country by celebrating President’s Day in the fine old American traditions of hitting the slopes, eating cherry pie, buying new cars, and telling lots of lies.

Legend has it that George Washington could not tell a lie.  As a young lad, he bravely confessed to chopping down a cherry tree despite the inevitable consequences.

Abraham Lincoln, the other President sometimes associated with the federal holiday that falls on the third Monday of February, was also known for his truthful ways.  “Honest Abe” earned his nickname after walking several miles to return a few pennies.

The average American, on the other hand, is a mendacious creature.  There have been many projects to research how often people lie, but it turns out this is a hard thing to study because people lie about how often they lie.  It is generally accepted that most people lie between a few times and several dozen times each day.

Perhaps we can comprehend — but not condone — why ambitious people employ duplicity for personal gain.

Independent fact-checkers reported so many outrageous lies during the 2012 US Presidential campaign that the only possible explanation is that deception was executed as a carefully planned strategy and not the inadvertent result of casual misstatements.  A top aid for the Romney operation admitted that lying is the whole point of their ads.

Less clear is why otherwise admirable people make statements lacking in both credibility and purpose.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor tarnishes her reputation by claiming she never heard of the Supreme Court until she was in college at Princeton.  Sotomayor graduated Spellman, a private high school where all students take college prep courses.  Even if she had attended an impoverished public school, it would have taken a complete news blackout for such a bright girl to miss the many landmark Supreme Court decisions of the 70s.

Most bewildering, at least to me, is why the people we know tell us so many lies, both little and large.

The majority of people are terrible actors.  They are only fooling themselves if they think they are fooling us.  And to what end?  They are showing disrespect, breeding mistrust, and fracturing relationships.  Maybe they are making themselves feel better.  They are certainly not making us feel better.

As for me, I’m sticking with the truth.  If you don’t like it, you wouldn’t have any trouble finding someone else to lie to you.

© 2013 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

Please Don’t Help Me

My doctor wants me to start taking 5g creatine supplements —

Warning.  Creatine occurs naturally in the body and acts to build skeletal muscle.  Do not use creatine in attempt to enhance athletic performance.  Excessive amounts of this substance are known to produce dangerous side effects.  Even modest supplementation can be unsafe for people with certain medical conditions or harmful when combined with common medications.

OK, so my doctor advises me to start with the creatine.  I go by the drugstore and head straight to the vitamin and mineral aisle.  The bottles are ordered alphabetically.  I move directly to the “C” section:

C…  C + E…  C + Rose Hips…  Calcium…  Calcium + D…  Calcium + Magnesium…  Calcium + Magnesium + D…  Chromium Picolinate…  Cod Liver Oil…  CoQ10 —

Suddenly, a clerk interrupts my progress…

Clerk to me:  Can I help you?

Me to Clerk:  I’m looking for creatine.

Clerk to me:  Carotene?

Me to Clerk:  No, creatine.

Clerk to me:  OK, carotene.

Me to Clerk:  No, creatine.  C-R-E-A-T-I-N-E.

Clerk to me:  C-A-R —

Me to Clerk:  No, C-R-E —

Clerk to me:  C-A-R —

I give up and resume reading on my own.  I can read.  All by myself.  Probably better than most.

Was the clerk unaware that her “help” was counterproductive?  Of course, I don’t blame her.  Most shops seem to require their staff to provide this kind of “service”.  But why would the bosses think this behavior is desirable?  If we wanted assistance, we would ask for it.

Just the other day, while reading labels at the Whole Foods, three different clerks approached me a total of five times within the space of about two minutes.  Yes, two of them actually approached me twice.

And it just keeps getting worse.  Earlier today there was a radio spot for Trader Joe’s.  In addition to unsolicited product pitches, their clerks will now be encouraged to make book and movie recommendations.

Two words.  No thanks.

© 2013 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

The Sporting Life

Yesterday, the 49ers lost the Super Bowl.  I didn’t care.  A few weeks ago, Stanford won the Rose Bowl.  I didn’t care about that either.

Football is the most popular sport in America, but I just don’t get it.  So brutal to watch the players hurting each other.  Who can understand the rules?  And to sit out in the cold and the rain?  Uch.

Actually, I don’t enjoy to watch any sports.  Except the Olympics.  And even then, only the girl’s gymnastics for the summer and the girl’s figure skating for the winter.

And I really don’t care who wins or loses.  Well, I did think it would be nice if Nancy Kerrigan won the gold medal for the skating after that nasty Tonya Harding’s husband smashed up Nancy’s knee.  And, yes, it did give me a moment of pleasure to see Aly Raisman — such a nice Jewish girl — win the gold for the gymnastics on the floor — performing to Hava Nagila no less!

Even so, I really didn’t care.  I mean, the sports doesn’t affect my life in any way.  It doesn’t affect the life for anyone of my acquaintance.

Still, I have been to enough live games and game parties to see that a lot of people really do care who is winning.  It is something for them much more than the passing entertainment of a movie or a concert.  They are following the sports like the way I am following the elections.

They are studying the game schedule like I am studying the primary schedule.  The are reading the ESPN sports blogs like I am reading Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog.  They are cheering when their team scores like I am cheering when Ohio gets called for Obama.

It is my inclination to feel that politics is the more worthy pursuit.  That who gets elected really matters.  To our daily lives.  To our nation’s future.  To the whole world.  The fans tell me the sports makes just as big a difference.  That a winning team makes for positive impact on the economy.  That it lifts the morale for the municipality.  They say “you gotta believe”.

But maybe it’s like believing in G-d or learning a language.  If you didn’t get it when you were young, you are just not very likely to pick it up later in life.

© 2013 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

Church and State

Today is a day to feel proud.

Our first African-American President took the official oath of office for his second term.  Our first Latino Supreme Court Justice gave the official oath to our Vice President.

Today is a day to celebrate.

But we are not celebrating.  We are not celebrating because today is Sunday. “Tradition” demands that when the inauguration day falls on Sunday, the Christian sabbath, all ceremonies and festivities be delayed until Monday.

With so many major violations of our constitutional guarantee to separation of church and state tarnishing our daily lives, perhaps this rather minor infraction shouldn’t bother me.  But it does.

It bothers me because the presidential inauguration, an event we witness but once every four years, is the only day we set aside to honor our constitution in public for all to observe, here at home and around the world.  Violating the constitution, it’s a funny way to show honor.

It bothers me because it favors a single religion, admittedly one that is not my own.  Of course, Christianity is the dominant faith in our country.  But when you consider the people who are Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, or Atheist and the people who are Christian but do not keep Sunday as a day of rest and prayer, there would not seem to be a groundswell of demand for the delay.

It bothers me because the move to a weekday diminishes the number of citizens who will be able to view the events.  Most adults will be at work where their jobs do not allow access to television or the internet.  Most children will be at school where their teachers may not have flexibility for the extra-curricular happenings.

Yes, today all of us can feel proud.  And tomorrow, some of us can celebrate.

© 2013 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

Doping for Dummies

Major-league jerk and minor-league athlete Lance Armstrong has finally confessed his use of performance-enhancing drugs.  Who cares?  Why cheaters like Armstrong, Barry Bonds et al get so much attention is beyond me.  Throw the bums out and be done with it.

It’s hard for me to understand why these guys do it.  Granted, my body type — petite, inverted triangle — is custom-made for my sport of choice: women’s indoor elliptical with moving handlebars.

As it happens, my lightning speed and perpetual motion are so natural they call me “The Hummingbird”.  Many times seeming strangers have approached me around town and exclaimed “I know you!  You’re the girl from the gym!  How do you go so fast and for so long?”

Alas, there is a down side to such organic athletic prowess.  Recently, the gym owner, ordinarily a darling man, called me into his office, shut the door, and asked me to sit.

Having been summoned to the principal’s office numerous times in my youth, I knew I was in trouble.  He told me that he’d been looking at the cost of wear and tear and needed me to go easier on the machines.  (Hmm.  The manufacturer says my favorite model is rated to support a 450-lb person.  That’s more than four times my size!  It’s not me making the depreciation!)

Anyway, back to trying to comprehend why the drugs.  Of course, some people will cheat to win even the most meaningless competition.

Shortly after arriving at college, my dorm had a contest called The Roommate Game, patterned after The Newlywed Game TV show.  Ostensibly, the purpose was to test how well each pair of roommates knew one another, but the real goal was to get the roommates to reveal embarrassing details about each other.  My roommate stole the questions from the Residential Advisor.  For what?

Perhaps the motivation to cheat feels irresistible to some professional athletes because they believe the sizable rewards of fame and fortune outweigh the momentary penalties of admission and awkwardness.  Or maybe they are so arrogant they never even consider the possibility of getting caught.

Still, I wonder how they tolerate the repeated injections and nasty side effects.  See, despite my staunch opposition to drugs, there are times when there is no alternative for me but to resort to corticosteroids.  For treating a chronic medical condition.

Sometimes this means injections to my spine, a procedure so excruciatingly painful that general anesthesia and intravenous morphine are required.  Maybe it doesn’t hurt so much when you get the needle between your fingers or toes.

Other times this means pills, swallowed by mouth but wreaking havoc throughout the body.  Really, I have enough body fat, facial hair, and sexual frustration without the benefit of supplemental testosterone.  Maybe designer drugs don’t come with the same perils as generic pharmaceuticals.

As far as I’m concerned, voluntary doping for non-therapeutic purposes is just dumb.

© 2013 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

The Worse of 2012

In this last week of the year, the media is bursting with Best of 2012 lists.  Best books.  Best films.  Best songs.  Best deaths.  Well, my preferred publications tend to favor a more delicate phrasing for this last; see The New York Times’ Notable Deaths and The New Yorker’s Lives Remembered.

The names and faces on the “best death” lists are familiar to many; their highly celebrated contributions to the social good in government, education, arts, science, industry (and so on) recognized throughout the land by anyone who turns on a television or computer.  Their deaths were the result of the usual culprits: age, disease, accidents.

So soon after the latest in a seemingly endless string of bloodbaths that stain our nation’s school houses and public spaces, however, my thoughts turn to the “worst deaths”.

The names and faces on the “worst death” lists are known by few; their largely unsung contributions to local civic groups, charities, schools, businesses, sports teams (and so forth) recognized within their communities by their families, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances.  Their deaths were the result of the most unexpected horror: intentional, indiscriminate gun violence.

We witnessed sixteen mass executions across our country in 2012:

Feb 22  Norcross GA health spa                4 killed   0 wounded
Feb 26  Jackson TN nightclub                  1 killed  20 wounded
Feb 27  Chardon OH high school                3 killed   3 wounded
Mar  8  Pittsburgh PA hospital                2 killed   7 wounded
Mar 31  Miami FL funeral home                 2 killed  12 wounded
Apr  2  Oakland, CA college campus            7 killed   3 wounded
Apr  6  Tulsa, OK city street                 3 killed   2 wounded
May 29  Seattle WA coffee shop                5 killed   1 wounded
Jul  9  Wilmington DE city park               3 killed   2 wounded
Jul 20  Aurora CO movie theater              12 killed  58 wounded
Aug  5  Milwaukee WI Sikh temple              6 killed   3 wounded
Aug 14  College Station TX college campus     3 killed   4 wounded
Sep 27  Minneapolis MN workplace              5 killed   3 wounded
Oct 21  Brookfield WI health spa              3 killed   4 wounded
Dec 11  Clakamas OR shopping center           2 killed   6 wounded
Dec 14  Newtown CT elementary school         26 killed   0 wounded

The NRA says “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”.

Good guy, shmud guy.  Please.  Who can tell?  The only thing that stops a bad guy is to make sure he never gets a gun in the first place.

© 2012 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.