Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Are we headed toward another boycott of the Olympics?

The origin of the Olympics is shrouded in mystery, but we know the first competition was organized more than 3000 years ago. Combat in that era was frequent and intense, but it was agreed that any battle would be postponed for the duration of the competition. This was a worthwhile goal, but in reality it has not been realized. Today, politics has often reared its ugly head in the form of boycotts, riots, and terrorism. There has not been an Olympics in recent years that was not effected in some way with political protest. Sixty-two nations supported us when we banned our athletes from performing in the Moscow events, 22 African countries boycotted the games in Montreal, and the Russians boycotted . . . well, I can't remember the reason for that. In all of this political posturing, we seem to forget the poor athletes. All of them have trained long and hard for their chance, and we ban them from participating because . . . I will let you fill in the blanks. I have a suggestion. Why don't we ban rocking chairs, or inline skates, or how about coffee, and leave the athletes alone. Banning any of the aforementioned makes just as much sense, and would probably accomplish just as much. That is my suggestion. What is yours?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Looking for the perfect weight loss program?

A friend of mine was a little heavy, not fat mind you, but just a few pounds more than she should have been carrying on her five foot four inch frame. The men who liked her used the word ‘ample’ to describe her figure, while a few of the women referred to her as ‘chunky.’ Dieting was a frequent topic of discussion when she was in the break room. These discussions were usually instigated by the ones who ate like a bird and had never carried an extra pound in their life.

Tired of the subtle hints and the sidelong glances from some of her coworkers, she searched and found the perfect weight loss program. It came in a box that looked remarkably like the ones containing a game called Monopoly. I could not see what the cards and pads had to do with losing weight, so she explained it to me. The most interesting item was a little cardboard envelope shaped like the ones they use to serve fries in at the fast food places. This was called the ‘point container,’ and you were supposed to keep it nearby—in a shirt pocket or in the top of a purse—where is would serve as a reminder.

Leaving off an extra helping of potatoes earned you a point that went into the ‘point container.’ A large slice of chocolate cake was worth two points. The goal was to try to accumulate 35 points in any given week. Now here is the good part and I can whip up an appetite just thinking about it. You could redeem the points by trading twelve of them for a banana split or nine for a small T-bone steak.

“I don’t think this is going to help,” I told her as gently as I could. “Here is what I do to control my weight,” I began, but I had only reached the middle of the second sentence when she interrupted.

“What do you know about dieting?" she demanded. "You have never carried an extra ounce in your life! I have talked to Bill about this and he thinks it will work.”

At that time, Bill weighed around 300 pounds, and none of it was in the right places. I tried again, explaining that she should talk to someone who was thin, and see what they were eating and the size of the portions.

“Look, you idiot!” she screamed at me. “Bill has been on a hundred diets during his lifetime. Why should I talk to someone who has never had any weight problems?”

There is a strange logic in her way of thinking. If I figure it out—and I am still working on this—I am going to use it in a novel.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

What time is it? A writer's minor nightmare.

Someone asked me recently what was the most irritating thing about writing. For a moment I thought she had asked, 'what is the most difficult thing about writing,' and I was prepared to launch into a long list of difficult things and let her take her pick. With this unexpected question, she had brought to mind one of those little irritating things, almost as bad as finding a tangle in your kids hair on 'picture day' at the elementary school. A lot of tiny things will drive the most level headed among us up the wall. We are programed to solve BIG problems, and the tiny things will drive us nuts. I encountered an especially irritating one when I was working on my last novel. The plot involves part of the characters -- located in Washington -- having to communicate with their counterparts in Israel. Different time zones, and as I continued to plot out the story, I discovered there was a larrrrrrrrrrrrge problem with one group in bed while the other group was in the middle of their workday. Most books occur in the same time zone, or at the most, involve two people having to communicate across no more that the width of United States. I found myself having to work out the current time in both places with irritating frequency. Then I ran across a website at http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/ that listed all of the major cities around the world and the current time. Today, with increased travel and so many of our friends and loved ones in uniform, this might be a good link to write down and keep handy. A lot of people aren't really happy at being awaken in the wee hours of the morning.