Doggy Bags

Il y a un problème qui arrive souvent aux États-Unis. Des restaurateurs veulent qu’aucun client ne parte avec faim. Les repas sont par conséquent trés abondants. Ça garantie que la plupart des clients ne puissent pas manger tout. Mais on peut éviter un gaspillage avec un sachet ou une boite avant qu’on demande l’addition. On emporte les restes! Ce sac est appellé un “doggy bag”.

En France, on peut emporter une bouteille de vin si on ne l’a pas vidé. Mais normalement on n’a pas besoin d’emporter des restes d’un restaurant. Les plats contiennent une raisonnable quantité de nourriture. Mais ça arrive quelquefois, même en France. Voici un exemple: il y a plusieurs années ma femme et moi avons diné à un restaurant dans le Dordogne, pas loin de Sarlat. Nous avons commandé un cassoulet. Nous pensions à un plat de taille modeste. Erreur! C’était un plateau ovale de 40 cm x 15 cm! Nous n’étions pas capables de manger le tout. Nous avons parlé avec le patron dans le parking du resto après. Il nous a dit que les restes étaient mangés ….par le chien!

The Stupid Society

The killings in Aurora Colorado have resurrected the question whether we ought to allow the acquisition of firearms to be so easy.

To me, the insistence on the unrestricted possession of and carrying of firearms has gone beyond all reason. Today it is just stupid.

It is no longer the 18th century.

Republican Smears – Racism and Xenophobia

In her column in the July 18, 2012 New York Times, Maureen Dowd takes the right wing to task for a series of ostensibly unrelated McCarthy-style smears on the President. Citing John Sununu’s claim that the President is not American enough, or Rush Limbaugh’s claims that the President hates America, that he was indoctrinated by his father (“a Communist”) and mother to do so, or Michelle Bachmann’s ludicrous claims about the Muslim Brotherhoods connections of one of Hillary Clinton’s aides, she winds up commenting on the prospective nominee, Mitt Romney:

“Campaigning Tuesday in Pennsylvania, Romney called Obama’s course as president “extraordinarily foreign.” But it is the Mitt-bot who keeps getting caught doing things that seem strangely outside the norm to most Americans.

Americans have been trained to be wary of Swiss bank accounts and tax shelters in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. Guys who have those in the movies are always shady and greedy.”

Yesterday on his Hardball program, Chris Mathews commented on the same incidents, and pointed out that neither Carter nor Clinton was ever accused of being un-American. The significance of this is unmistakable. Policy-wise, Obama is not different from these Democratic presidents in any significant way. What is different about Obama is the color of his skin.

And of course these claims by Romney and extremist Republicans are false. Obama is a down-to-earth, American family man, devoted to his country, having sacrificed the opportunity for a fabulous income as a lawyer to work to help other Americans, and ultimately rise to the top in politics, using a strategy of small contributions from ordinary Americans to fund his campaign. Contrast this with Romney, who hides his income behind the technicalities of the law, and relies on the outrageous Citizens United decision to fund his campaign with secret contributions from wealthy special interests.

My Fitness Pal

In April my wife took me to the Apple Store. She needed to replace her Iphone, because a key part broke in a fall, and the software was going out of date anyway in a month or so. Although I had resisted getting one myself, being largely contented with cell phones, I was beginning to regret not being able to synchronize my calendar and contacts. So I bought an Iphone as well. Now we have two in the family – hers is white and mine is black.

We both sing with a chorus and not long afterward at a rehearsal I was sitting next to my friend Michael and I noticed he was doing something with his Iphone. He explained he was entering data in his calorie counter program. “It is all a matter of thermodynamics” he said (you have to study that to become a doctor). “I’ve lost ten pounds so far.” His program had a nice graphic that displays exercise vs food on a balance, and a graph that showed his weight over time since the beginning of his diet. A nice smooth straight line, heading down.

There are lots of these programs, I have since learned, and they are really catching on because they work very well. I got one, called My Fitness Pal, entered my desired weight by a certain date in the future, and learned right away that to do this I had to limit myself to 1550 calories a day. Before the era of handheld smartphones, this would have required a lot of tedious book-keeping. But with this application, all I have to do is enter what I eat. It knows how many calories that is. Also, it keeps track of exercise. Now I am in the habit of walking for an hour every morning – or doing exercise on a Nordic-Trac machine if the weather is bad. But the program knows that this exercise is worth 279 calories. So now, without doing a lot of reading and writing, I can tell just where I am along the trajectory toward those 1550 net calories. The more exercise I do, the more “free” food I can eat. If I want a snack it is no problem, except that I have to enter it in the smart phone. So I am a little less inclined to munch between meals. Of course I could skip all that, but after respecting the routine for a week or so, I became reluctant to break it, or to lie to myself, in effect. The program has built-in positive feedback, full of congratulatory messages and forecasts, like “If every day were like today you would weigh such and such in five weeks.” I could even sign up with “friends” in a kind of specialized Facebook associated with the program. There is a web site where I can view my data and get more information, that the program synchronizes for me as long as the smart phone is connected to the internet.

I told my doctor about this on a routine visit, and he smiled in recognition. “All of my patients, it seems, are doing something like this.” I cannot complain about the results. I have lost about 7% of my body weight in three months. I feel better. I can fit into some trousers that I had set aside as “too tight.” I get hungry before meals, but I have stopped considering that a problem. In a way, getting hungry reminds me that I do not really need all that technology. Still, I am hooked on keeping track of what I eat and how much I exercise, and I am determined to reach my goal weight or even do better – after all it was a pretty arbitrary target of 10%.

This could get expensive if I go “too far.” My wife says already that some of my trousers are “too baggy” to be worn in public.

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