Friday, February 29, 2008

More cool stuff online

I totally want one of these:
It's a perfect complement to my personality. The guy who created them graduated with a degree in mathematics in 2007...which, presumably looking at his resume, means that's he's around my age. Sweet.

And I so clearly suffer from NADD--(the media version). This guy fits in so well with my group of friends:

Folks, I’m a nerd. I need rapid fire content delivery in short, clever, punch phrases. Give me Coupland, give me Calvin’n’Hobbes, give me Asimov, give me The Watchmen. I need this type of content because I’m horribly afflicted with NADD.
This guy is great:
First, it’s a lot of work to figure out your personal program of digesting the world and, sorry, you are going to miss things. This will annoy you, but it will also drive you to incessantly look for the NEXT COOL THING.

Second, you’re going to sound like a know-it-all. Try not to.

Third, and lastly, you’re not going to have much patience with those who have not chosen a NADD-like life. Ocassionally, you’ll attempt to impart your fractured wisdom only to throw your hands up four minutes later when it’s clear, “Jesus, they just don’t get it.” Chances are, they might’ve gotten it, you’re just afflicted with a disease where your attention span is that of a second grader. Oh well, embrace your handicap.
Sounds exactly like me, huh?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Just an excuse to post something...

The only way to properly pay tribute to William F. Buckley Jr., is with big words:

William F. Buckley Jr., 82, Dies; Sesquipedalian Spark of Right

William F. Buckley Jr, who marshaled polysyllabic exuberance, arched eyebrows and a refined, perspicacious mind to elevate conservatism to the center of American political discourse, died on Wednesday at his home in Stamford, Conn. He was 82.
That's got to be the most ridiculously confusing headline and lede in a Times obituary in history. It's the way to scare off all those anti-intellectuals and I'm going to arrogantly cite it as a reason why students don't know jack just so I can fit the link in.

It works though:

Perspicacious: [adj] having keen mental perception and understanding; discerning: to exhibit perspicacious judgment.

Sesquipedalian: [adj] given to using long words.

He wrote 55 books. If I only can have a tenth of his productivity!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Not Another One

I know that a new episode of Best Week Ever will air tomorrow night, but I feel the need to say that they totally dropped the ball last week.

You know who had the Best Week Ever?

Ex-boyfriends who shot themselves at universities.

Yep. It's not too P.C. to say, and I can definitely see why the show wouldn't air something like that, but who are we kidding?

For those of you not acquainted, last week a jilted ex-boyfriend drove up to Seton Hall and shot himself in the stomach. Although he allegedly had no plans to shoot anyone else (guess he just wanted her to see how much he was hurting? or wanted to threaten/hurt her?), it's still a jarring news story, especially following the Northern Illinois University killings. Although this act, for all intents and purposes, had no connection with the former, it still feels like a copycat, an "oh, another one." Even fear can get played out.

And then at St. Peter's College, there was a threatening note that led to a lockdown. Students were notified via text message, a system that was also used at Seton Hall. All the stories mentioned--they basically had to, it was the giant elephant in the room--the Virginia Tech shootings, which happened 10 months ago.

Bergen Community had some nasty hate speech issues recently, too. Then again--wait--so did my alma mater in the last two years.

They also had another (!) stabbing case recently. For anyone who thinks that college is "the best years of your lives", they might need to reexamine that statement.

In fact, there's been quite a bit of violence in schools recently, although one can certainly stretch out the definition of recently. I felt pretty bad as I had forgotten about the shootings at Louisiana State Technical College. That had occurred only a week earlier.

And one of my first thoughts when seeing that listed in a chart similar to this one is that the media barely covered it. I only heard about it because it was the top story on Google News one afternoon, then it was relegated to local papers. The Seton Hall story only got press in New Jersey, same for St. Peter's College. Now, one can say that there's clearly something wrong with New Jerseyans, they've got too much hate inside of them. But, we can counter, we don't kill others in places of higher learning, we just threaten them and then beat ourselves up. Aside from that, should the media have covered this horror stories in more detail, considering that just a short time ago the biggest campus tragedy ever happened? Or should they have kept the stories to small, local press? After all, Bergen Community, St. Peter's College, and Delaware State University aren't well-known schools, and nobody needs negative press (unless you're Britney Spears); plus, does it really serve the public to keep notifying them of horrible things that are happening in faraway places?

That's what all those people say who don't read the news, who don't care what's happening overseas, who don't want to see the list of dead in Iraq.

Now clearly, threatening notes, lockdowns, and maybe even weapons possession feels very commonplace to both high school and college students, so there's no need to spread these stories. Maybe they're the equivalent to drunken driving, or other stupid, dangerous and preventable behavior that youngsters become used to hearing about. The point being that they were small stories, only big to the people in the populations that affected them. Of course, I haven't really touched on the biggest issue, which has to do with why these things are happening, why at such an increasing and alarming rate, and how to curb it. What is it a reaction against? Yes, they are all at heart personal vendettas, but the fact that these people are willing to make such huge public statements about their personal troubles says something. Maybe it all goes back to that our generation is in desperate need of some personal recognition, of some fame and notoriety, and a profile page doesn't cut it.

It might be one of the defining struggles of our age, that of safety and freedom. Social networking sites are inherently working within that framework, and it's these incidents that are only going to make the tension between the two worse.

I've been to Seton Hall--in fact, I've been in the dorm where the shooter was headed--and I remember hating the process to get into the school. Special passes needed, sign-ins every building...I couldn't go anywhere by myself because there were constant ID checks. And this was three years ago. I was so happy that I went to a school where I could drive right in, wave my ID and say howdy. Whoohoo! Although my school has stepped up security somewhat (current students could give better details), the issue is one that is still steeped in contention. I want to be able to have the freedom to just show up and hang out, left alone at parties. But when you've called three times to complain about loud neighbors, or that rock that fell through your living room window, where the hell are they?

Lots to ruminate on. Best Week Ever, I know you do pop culture and entertainment news, but this is part of our culture. Step up. It's way more important than that reality show dude who won last week.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Is It Worth It? The Struggle for Happiness

This is so true.

I wasn't surprised by much of it--I've heard most of the studies before.

Of course, Americans aren't going to change. I'm sure anyone under the age of 23 watching the segment was halfway into packing their bags as soon as they heard that student loans don't exist--forget about paid paternity leave, 6 week vacations and 37-hour workweeks--but I knew better. It's the taxes that are gonna get you, buddy, and very few Americans would ever concede to paying almost half their salary in taxes. We like our money too much. We like our stuff too much.

There’s a fundamental difference in attitudes between those that are “happy”–and happiness scales usually mean contentment, because happiness in its everyday form is not the rush of jubilation, but of steady smiles–and those that are working towards being happy. Americans are always striving to be the best. In fact, we can argue that not only is this embedded into our culture, but that today’s youth has made it a default. We deride people who aren’t striving, who are aimless, unsure of their future. It’s been said many times, especially in articles discussing the power of the youth vote in this election, that “we know where we want to go”, that “we’re all just trying to make it happen”. Everything in our lives is so stressful. We all look back fondly on college, ignoring all those nights where we had freakouts and panic attacks over a paper, midterm, or a nasty fight with a friend. Getting into college, at least among the middle and upper-middle class, is one giant huckster hunt, constantly trying to prove why you are so great. We're already outstanding before we've had the opportunity to have done anything. That doesn’t change once school is over, either: especially in this transparent day and age, we have to work hard to make sure we live up to our image, that we approve of our image, and that we have the resume to back up those assertions.

"Happiness is the result of low expectations."

There are some that would jump at that statement, saying you always have to try for better, you never know what you can achieve, go for your dreams, all the inspirational stuff that American Idol winners sing about. Maybe. But, while not discrediting that notion, I’ve always thought about, in a realistic fashion, that sometimes low expectations are good, because if something exceeds them, you’re happier. But this isn’t something you can just magically do–you cannot go from one day praying for that raise or that A without some sort of change of heart. We are conditioned to strive, and as such we’ve cracked under the pressure, becoming a nation of strivers, of anxiety-ridden Zoloft-taking power-hungry emo fameseekers. Our culture conditions us to it. Although Into the Wild, both the movie and the book, take place in the early ‘90s, Christopher McCandless’ story could just as easily be set now. His story speaks to so many people because dropping out of the prevailing culture and testing the limits of survival with nature is so at odds with modern living. It’s an incredibly scary, incredibly liberating concept, a fantasy that in many ways is more attainable than all the riches we’re after. The same concept prevails in edutainments like Man vs. Wild and many programs on Discovery and National Geographic, that of living in a different, realer world, learning how to adapt, dealing with an authentic type of stress, one that matters. The fact that it was true also lends it that otherworldly aura. For once we’re in the rat race, leaving it seems impossible, because you can’t go back, and few people are ready or willing to jump out.

“Wanting it all is a bacterium that stays with us from youth to old age.”

Ah, power. Americans are always the best, we can do everything and anything. Just look at our foreign policy. Hell, the women’s movement today just seems to be synonymous with dismantling the ideal of “having it all.” We all know we can’t have it all, no matter how hard we try. No matter what you do, you want more, yet still we manage to persist that if we just try harder, work a little faster, smarter, better, we’ll get it.

And then we’ll find something else to strive for.

We look to the day when we can have power. We’re the boss, the king of the castle, queen of the road. But power can cause unhappiness–after all, there’s always someone out there trying to usurp it, using the powerful for something.

Should we downscale ambition? Tailor it so that it’s less about winning? But whether it’s weight loss or running a marathon, it’s inherit in us that we try to do well, and then our culture comes and makes us want to be the best, or at least the best that we can attain.

Studies have shown (forgive me, I would link if I could) that money and happiness only correlate to a certain degree; that is, once a standard of living is met, the increase in wealth has no bearing on happiness. You get used to the stuff you can now buy; if anything, this can cause more stress because now there is a house to look after, a fancier car that requires more maintenance, an expensive electronic that cannot get scratched. Worries multiply, and downscaling is not an option. Again comes that feeling of it being impossible to go back.

“We can’t have it all, but we can have a lot.”

“There’s a grandness to it,” one of the Danes says about America, but he adds that he wouldn’t want his kids to live there. So many Americans dream of grand lives, of things done, goals accomplished. It’s why writing out lists of life goals has become popular. But striving always has disappointment attached to it; yet instead we are buoyed by the fact that Abraham Lincoln failed many times before he became a great president. But remember, guys–he was miserable. Then there’s the corollary that to be great must equal a lot of pain and hardship. Everyone can easily list examples of how this thinking has become practically gospel.

It is amusing to hear in the video that Danes would say, if hearing they were #20 on a list, that that would be pretty good, it’s within the top 25. American articles are always bemoaning the fact that we are so far below the rest of the world in clean energy, in math and science scores, in healthy living...we would never ever flip that assessment around like the Danes. We’ve gotta be on top, we have to win. But like everything in life, winning–whatever that means–is about tradeoffs, and too many of us realize we don’t like the life we are truly living. We watch Into the Wild, we contemplate our existence, maybe we feel inspired, but then we get distracted by a new commercial and the feeling goes away, only to be replaced by the next inspirational entertainment.

(Man, this makes me want to reread my DeTocqueville.)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

You are confusing me, blogger

So apparently even if you edit posts that were drafted days before they are timestamped with the draft's date. There are two pieces below that I've spent considerable time working on. I still have more, hopefully forthcoming. I'm really going to try to get this updated as often as possible.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Why Chicken Fingers Are Destroying American Cuisine

Me: So I told him that if he ordered chicken fingers and French fries I wouldn't talk to him the rest of the night.
My dad: Chicken fingers? He hasn't grown up yet?

Chicken fingers have ruined American cuisine. I know that the term "American cuisine" immediately connotes McDonald's hamburgers, frozen dinners...and maybe a charitable apple pie or milkshake. It's always unhealthy, usually fattening, and disgusting in large quantities. Fried comes a close fourth.

I am incredibly dismayed when I see anyone eating chicken fingers in a restaurant. Chicken fingers are ubiquitous--and they are nothing more than a nicer version of chicken nuggets, just all white meat. Most of the time they aren't even that good.

As a friend asked me the other day: Why do I bitch about chicken fingers and not hamburgers?

Hamburgers can be eaten many different ways. They are even getting quite upscale (see anything about burgers in New York magazine). They can be cooked differently, and that doesn't include mixing cheeses, sauces, vegetables, seasonings, or buns. Chicken fingers remain chicken fingers no matter where you go. Burgers can be turkey or vegetarian, soy or bean. Chicken fingers remain smushed chicken bits and fried coating; only the preference for dipping sauce changes: barbeque? honey mustard?

What a limiting meal.

The pervasiveness of chicken fingers, especially with regard to children, is stunting Americans' palates. For all the talk of obesity in this country, would it hurt a child or a parent to order something a little more nutritious and tasty than a deep-fried piece of meat? Since chicken fingers cannot really be made at home (unlike a delicious burger, which is merely slapping a handful of ground meat on the grill) without much prep and oil, there is no incentive to keep eating them. They are, essentially, junk food for dinner.

Since chicken fingers, like their cousin the nugget, are finger foods, they are by association considered kiddie foods. This isn't finger food as in appetizers (although if they are included as an appetizer, I immediately think they are doing this to service the kids--ugh--or the host has no taste. It's usually the latter.), but finger foods as laziness, meant for the ones who do not have purchasing power.

Chicken fingers are incredibly depressing as a meal. They are best hot--that is their taste. They work excellently as a quick junky meal, like at college or break to Wendy's. Ordering them in a restaurant basically labels you as a person who has no culinary taste, no desire to try anything, someone who is uncultured.

A few summers ago, I was in a nice seafood restaurant with my father in Long Beach Island where a family with several children next to us ordered chicken fingers. We were appalled. They ordered CHICKEN FINGERS in a SEAFOOD RESTAURANT. Why would anyone do such a thing?!?!? It's gauche. It's vulgar. It's a slap in the face to the establishment. Hell, if I was the restaurant, I wouldn't even bother serving such a thing.

The best children's meal I ever had was a steak dinner at a nice, upscale restaurant on vacation many years ago. The steak--perfectly tender, a small but fulfilling size, with appropriate sides--was merely a smaller version of an adult-sized entree, but this was listed on the children's menu. My brother and I were in heaven. We ate the whole thing. My parents loved that we could get an excellent meal at a good price without having to wrap up the rest. We never found another restaurant that had a children's menu remotely like it, and I'm sure that that place is rarer than people who actually eat rare steak. Most children's menus feature disgusting, low-market options like the obligatory hamburger, cheeseburger, hot dog, spaghetti, and chicken fingers. How does that distinguish the restaurant? Maybe they dress up the options, but the children's menus often have little in common with the rest of the establishment's food. What type of coherence is that? How can we expect to nurture another generation of healthy, smart, cultured food lovers when all they are exposed to is packaged crap?

It will come as no surprise to anyone reading this entry that as a child I dazzled adults by loving such things as bagels, cream cheese and lox, vegetables and dip, and antipasta. I still love those foods, and I'd never exchange them for something as piddly as chicken fingers.

I once asked my brother, after observing this phenomenon of everyone ordering chicken fingers as default when I went out to eat with friends if he did so. He looked at me as if I had asked him if he ever ordered deep fried sneakers as a appetizer.

At least I know we're on the same page.

(The New York Times verified my opinion by publishing this rant back in May, and I urge everyone to read it. For one thing, it's way better written than this entry, and offers a brief history of how chicken fingers came to be the food of choice. I reread the article after I wrote this entry, since I hadn't read it since it was published. And please, for the love of God, do not order chicken fingers when you're in a restaurant with me again.)

Is Chelsea Clinton a public figure?

With the recent controversy of MSNBC commentator David Shuster asking if Chelsea Clinton is being pimped out on the campaign trail by her parents, the question becomes—ignoring whether or not Shuster's comments are acceptable, drawing the line on good taste, slang and political correctness, an issue we'll return to time and again--if that's really true. After all, Chelsea is an adult, she makes her own decisions.

Chelsea's been in the news lately because all of sudden she's in the spotlight, campaigning for her mom, but she frustratingly won't give reporters what they want. She refuses to speak to all media, even declining an interview request by an eight-year old boy for Scholastic News, that little paper we got in elementary school as an introduction to the far-off world of current events. I’m sure many people thought it was silly, but she was sticking to her guns.

Chelsea is now 27, a hedge fund manager in New York City. While she has always been private—and opposite of those “hard-partying” Bush twins, she has been profiled in Talk magazine back in 2002, and even wrote a piece on her Sept. 11 experience. Since she was young, she was shy, yet the media tried to bring her into focus, as they are naturally inclined to do just as we are naturally inclined to be interested in the only child of one of the most powerful families in the world.

Despite going to Stanford and getting a degree at Oxford, like her father, she has managed to keep most of her life private. Good for her. Although the Clintons say that she isn’t a public figure, she’s put herself in that role, and knowing that by being their daughter, she runs certain risks. As the daughter of a presidential candidate, there will be some media attention. Any time you are a relative of a public official you run the risk of getting some media attention; it comes with the territory. Yes, it’s unfair, but that’s life. Heck, even President Truman’s daughter Margaret had her own obituary recently, and I bet not many people knew anything about her.

But once you thrust yourself in a role where you are talking to large groups of people to change their minds on a topic—actively campaigning—you lose your right to say you are completely a private figure.

The definition of a public figure differs by state, but generally, according to the AP Style Handbook, in New York "a public figure is one who has thrust himself or herself into the vortex of a public issue or controversy or has taken affirmative steps to attract public attention." In Texas, it's "one who has assumed a role of prominence in the affairs of society; California, "one who has voluntarily and actively sought in connection with any matter of public interest, to influence resolution of the issues involved."

That's exactly what Chelsea Clinton is doing. She's thrust herself in the limelight, so to speak, in a prominent role to influence a huge matter in society for the public interest.

While the notion that the Clintons and their machine are using their daughter for political game has some merit, it’s largely discredited by the fact that Chelsea is…their daughter. Children campaign for their parents. Did anyone mock all the hands-on effort any of the Romney sons did for dear ol’ dad? While Meghan McCain has gotten the most press because she writes a blog detailing all the wacky antics of going on the campaign trail, McCain has seven other children, ranging in age from 48 to 16. Other than the fact that all these kids are incredibly lucky in terms of the opportunities offered them (seriously, those are all the people getting all the internships at top-tier magazines…and Chelsea makes a six-figure salary), it's up to them if they're old enough if they want to campaign for their parents, and many of them take the opportunity. I would--what an experience! Remember when Giuliani’s kids made news because they refused to back up their dad—and his daughter listed that she supported Obama instead? That’s controversial.

Some might question why haven’t other presidential children gotten so much scrutiny. Meghan McCain, despite her blog, talks less about issues and more about what’s on her iPod. She also is much more behind-the-scenes than Chelsea is, and most people have never heard of her. McCain’s other children do not have an active role. Kerry’s children, when they were in the spotlight, were criticized. Obama’s children are too little. The Bush twins have had their fair share of media attention, the majority of it negative, with the exception of Jenna’s wedding announcement. And frankly, Chelsea’s been in the public eye for so long that she’d garner attention even if her mom wasn’t running for president.

Once Chelsea decided that she was going to actively make speeches on behalf of her mother, write articles, or otherwise make herself a visual, audible presence in her mother’s campaign she is seen as a public figure. She can, for the most part, continue what she’s doing. She’ll still lead a relatively quiet life compared to most other notable public figures, especially if her mother doesn’t get the nomination, and if she does—she’s an adult. She has her own apartment, her own, separate life.

If I was Chelsea, I’d speak to the press, because I believe that usually speaking is better than not saying anything. You can try to correct the record. Not speaking often just parlays into suspiciousness on behalf of those waiting for an answer: What are you hiding? While I don’t think Chelsea is hiding anything—she’s just private, and there is a difference, talking to the press might get them off her back.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

And I told him to look me up on Facebook too...

I've been so consumed by this election madness that I can hardly concentrate on anything else.

I've also decided that if Hillary gets the Democratic nomination, I'll most likely vote for her.

In other news, in my ongoing assessment to prove that the Record is better than the the Star-Ledger, offers election breakdowns by county and by district. And I figured that the Star-Ledger would offer it because they cover more territory; they're the fifteenth-largest newspaper in the country by daily circulation with 372,629 to the Record's 170,408...but I forgot that newspaper does not equal online, and is simply lacking.

You know you've been consuming too much news when you dream that you meet Hillary, Chelsea Clinton, and Eli Manning in one night.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Is it okay to be unsure?

Everyone in my family plans to vote in the presidential primaries Tuesday.

None of us is sure who we’re going to vote for.

Polls and studies have indicated that many people make up their mind the day of, at the voting booth. Some people even make up their mind a day or two before.

My weekend–-and my Monday and probably my Tuesday–-will be made up of studying the candidates and finalizing my vote.

Is it ok to vote for someone even if you’re not sure?

I think of it like studying for an exam. You study and study and study, and worry and worry and worry, but finally you realize that you aren’t making any breakthroughs and you might as well just say fuck it and take a break. You’ve read and prepared and outlined to the max, and if you don’t know it now, then you never will. It’s the same for prepping for a speech or a paper: You know the deadline, and extending it just makes the process harder, so you just have to do it. I’m going to take what I know and believe and try to figure out a rationale why I’m voting for a candidate. The problem is that I like many of those running, and many of their positions are similar. I wonder about electability, dynasties, the things that influence me...I read an article the other day about Obama and his chances in the midwest, and a lot of those interviewed made reference to him being a Muslim, and how that worried them. That’s stupid, I thought, they're uninformed, it’s just small-town mindedness and pack mentality. Then I realized that I can easily fall into the same trap, but with opposite reasoning: Basically all my friends are huge Obama supporters, for his vision, youth, and passion, what he represents. Since I live in a different area of the country, one "more liberal", we reject all the nonsense about Obama's religious background. In the same vein, no one I know will vote for Huckabee because he’s an evangelist. We don’t do evangelism here. He’s "the best-liked candidate among people who will never vote for him." My brother, the great follower of politics that he is, dislikes all Republicans except Ron Paul, even though I pointed out to him that some of his beliefs align more closely with Republicans.

I am influenced by all these things, from reading Times editorials every day to listening to my friends expel the virtues of Obama and demonizing Hillary to falling under Andrew Sullivan’s spell in the Atlantic. I wonder at all the things I miss, all the things the media miss. I’ll never feel absolutely informed, and that pretty much goes for any subject. But all I can do is try, and work to constantly separate the minutia from the opinion from the facts to form my own opinion. I cannot not be influenced, from the articles I read to the arguments they give.

So if I'm so ambivalent, why am I even voting at all?

I am voting because I feel this primary is important, and I want to be a part of it, I want to say that I participated in something important and life-changing. If the U.S. is indeed at a crossroads, then I want to say that I was there, I remember, that I took part. My little vote is just one, but it’s something, and being engaged with the world is important to me.

I don’t care about endorsements. I dislike the Kennedys, and so the comparisons of Obama to President Kennedy makes me less likely to vote for him, not more. I pay attention to why newspapers endorse candidates–-for me, that makes a bigger impact than some senator saying "vote for this guy". This might seem irrational at first, as senators, congresspeople and other politicians have worked with the candidates and so have an idea of how they operate, but I never hear specifics from them, nothing concrete, which is what I want to hear--examples, the why and the how. Editorials and commentary from columnists have space to explain, to provide some facts and data.

I'm off to go study. I only have a little time left.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Let's Move

In today’s USA Today there is an article touting the benefits of taking mass transit, saying that it improves health, because walking is exercise.

Well, duh. Our modern day work culture is absolutely awful for our health and well-being. For many of us, we walk—alone—to our cars to sit—alone—to drive a distance usually plagued with traffic (because we all have to be at work around the same time) to sit in a cubicle all day long, with a brief break for “lunch”, where most of us just either stay put or drive to pick up something unhealthy which we rationalize away, or maybe we walk a few feet to the break room to sit. We sit all afternoon, maybe walking a few feet for a meeting or to chat with someone, and then we go back to our cars to be comforted by our radio as we sit—alone—through more traffic. Once we get home, we have to make dinner for everyone, take care of ourselves and our families, and then try to squeeze in some “relaxing” time in the midst of trying to make sure the house doesn’t fall down and the bills are paid.

It’s a horrible system. If you’re a person who wants to eat healthy and wants to exercise, if you work a 9-5 cubicle job that becomes extremely difficult. If you go to a gym after work, it’s guaranteed that it will be crowded and you often will be tired. Also, trying to squeeze in “regimented” exercise can be tough, especially if other things get in the way. The best way to get exercise is to get it naturally—that’s where those 30 minutes of walking a day come in. But eating and walking is difficult, eating at your desk while you work slows productivity and dirties your workspace, and frankly, sometimes the weather disinclines us to walking (not to mention business attire).

There’s definitely a trade-off between working in a city and commuting from the suburbs and driving to work: time. USA Today points out that commuting by car takes on average 24 minutes while taking a train or bus is 48…which translates to waking up earlier for work. Not an alternative many people want. But that’s where you get your exercise time, without even consciously noticing it.

There are days where I feel I live in my car: I drive to work, if I want to run errands at lunch then I’m driving to random stores, then as soon as I leave it’s back to sitting again. I eat (more sitting), and then I drive to the gym. I wish I could walk there, but it’s a few miles away, and while I plan to attempt to walk there one day, I know I would be too tired to put in a full workout and then walk home.

I can feel my body just atrophy. My limbs call out to move. I try as much as possible to move at work, and I’m naturally fidgety, swaying and stretching. It bothers me, and going to a gym a few times a week doesn’t cut it.

The freshman fifteen is commented on often, because all those ice cream bars and unlimited soda pack on the pounds. But that is often negated by all the walking college students do. This of course varies campus to campus, but many colleges feature rolling hills, parks, walking paths, and beautiful gym facilities, all things that are touted as incentives to go there. Walking to the dining hall two or three times a day is added exercise, as you never had to walk much to get dinner at home. Add in the running between buildings for classes, the hike to the library, and leisurely strolls between dorms to visit friends and all of a sudden your exercise quota for the week is filled. In fact, many people gain weight after they graduate because all the walking they did before has been replaced by sitting in front of computers and time in vehicles.

In the very interesting book Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream, Jennifer Ackerman discusses the concept of Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis. NEAT is basically all the energy expended without it being exercise: it’s the random tapping of feet, the shaking of heads, the shrugging of shoulders. Studies have shown that people who tend to move more, who engage in NEAT rather than sit still, generally gain less weight. This is independent of metabolism.

I’m naturally fidgety anyway, so this is good news, and now that I’m aware of it I try to wiggle a little more in my chair, bop along in my car. I stretch more often. I don’t really think it makes much a difference, as I still yearn to walk everywhere, but it’s still something.

I love computers, but for all the revolutions they’ve brought in communication and commerce, they impede exercise. Although technically you can work out and watch television, this is often impractical for many people, since you need to have the appropriate space to do so (and of course be watching programs that do not require concentration). I sit in front of a computer all day at work, but I don’t look up online videos, balance my checkbook, or email or chat with friends until I’m home, which also requires me to plop my butt down in front of a computer for another several hours.

I find the modern workday very frustrating. Being healthy and exercising—really, just moving—is important to me. All everyone ever complains about is weight and body image, which can be corrected if people worked to make themselves healthy. But our habits, our culture, doesn’t support it when we live in exurbs that have no sidewalks and weak mass-transit systems. A regimented day requires us to not get sunlight, exercise, or sometimes, interactions with people, all of which are necessary for a healthy life.

Bringing baked goods to the office doesn’t help, either.