Miracle Weight Loss Plan

Take the bus! No really. A study shows evidence that using mass transit causes people to lose weight.

I’m going to be walking extra today to get the bus to pick up my car. Hey, whatever gets you up on your feet.

There’s a potential link between air pollution and obesity. Also a link between stress and obesity. What is more stressful than sitting in a traffic jam?

Right now it’s not convenient, or even possible, for most of us to take the bus to work. And our buses are noisy and spewing fumes. But a well-designed system would be clean, accessible, and used by all kinds of people as a good alternative. Like the trolley my great-grandfather drove through the streets of Providence.

One estimate is that obesity costs the US 147 billion dollars a year. That’s on top of the billions that individuals pay for weight loss products and programs. And we’re just getting fatter.

Either human nature has taken a turn for the worse and we all had better character twenty years ago, or even ten– or our environment has changed.

In that case things won’t get better until we change it again, with less cars, more bikes and walking as a part of daily life.

Public Transit Cut Again

I had to take my car in for repairs yesterday and I caught a bus back home. I’d never taken the bus from Taunton Ave., and was pleased to find that the service is good. The bus was full.

One of the passengers was a disabled little girl in a wheelchair. Taking RIPTA saves somebody (state, feds, family or all three) over a hundred dollars each trip.

So I am bummed and frustrated to see this in today’s paper…

PROVIDENCE — The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority plans service reductions affecting more than 15,000 riders per year to help cover an estimated budget deficit of $3.7 million.

The cutbacks would take effect Aug. 28 and could affect as many as 18,000 riders, depending on how they are counted.

This is exactly the wrong thing for RIPTA and our state’s long-term economic health. People are using the bus to go to school and work, and night shift workers in nursing homes, college students, people who can’t maintain the expense of a car will be stranded.
We all pay taxes to smooth the highway in some town we’ll never visit and no one sees that as an entitlement. Why is public transit not given priority?

Anything ‘saved’ with these cuts costs in other ways. Increased burdens on working families, more rustbucket cars on the road, more congestion, pollution, accidents.

One reason elderly drivers won’t hand over the keys is because there are no good alternatives for transportation. And every extra five minutes you have to wait at the bus stop makes it less appealing to change old habits.

It’s also a matter of national security.

Just at the moment when the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill has generated two months of non-stop headlines about the dangers of oil dependency and the federal government in America finally has something of a platform to call for Americans to wean themselves off oil dependency, cities, counties and states across the US are decimating their public transit systems and forcing people, willy-nilly, to return to their cars.

The huge public works program to re-route the highway along the waterfront is ongoing, and I hope will pay off. Public transit needs to take a higher priority if we are going to keep people employed and achieve energy independence.

Mackerel is the New Salmon?

Well, you won’t see canned mackerel on the menu at the finer restaurants, and kids won’t eat it. On the other hand, it’s cheap, safe, full of omega-3′s, and not as ecologically costly to harvest as swordfish and tuna.

A lot of my friends and neighbors are facing real hard times. I’m just having to cut back a little. I’m falling back on coping techniques from the 70′s and 80′s, which makes me feel youthful, kind of.

You have to be in a fairly high level of privilege to gain time when you lose income. You have to have a pretty good stock of reserve to be able to simplify your life. More commonly underemployment is a time of high anxiety and insecurity, and many Rhode Islanders are suffering in this economy.

Time is wealth. How to use it honorably is a nice problem to have, but a problem.

America is famous for short vacations and a driven, acquisitive culture. If you are able to jump off for an hour, a day, a year… what do you do?

An economy founded on consumption cannot endure. What will zero growth feel like?

Again, I’m ready to duck flaming balls of indignation because so many are working three jobs just to get by. But human beings need to do nothing sometimes to keep sane. That’s the point of the Sabbath, which is a wise and humane custom that continues to exist as the ‘weekend’.

Just some restless thoughts from a visiting nurse whose car is in the shop and is enjoying a down day with some discomfort.

AND ANOTHER THING: John Boehner suggests raising the social security age to 70 and cutting benefits in order to finance our foreign wars. I think that idea has merit. If a war isn’t worth some pain and suffering in the general population at home, it’s not worth the life of even one of our ‘volunteer troops’, or one of the uncounted civilians who are called ‘collateral damage’. Better yet, we don’t allow our leaders to make war unless our survival is threatened and every alternative has been tried.

Double Down on McAsian Carp

This Sunday’s New York Times has an article about how we are extincting Bluefin Tuna because we love it to death. We’re eating them all. The BP oil disaster may be the final blow.

At the same time, we have a problem in the Great Lakes with Asian Carp invading the ecosystem and multiplying out of control.

I’m sure you see where this is going.

So I’m posting a link to Asian Carp recipes here. They are good in coconut milk with lemon grass, but what isn’t?

One reason carp have been able to multiply uncaught is their reputation as bottom-feeders. Northerners who think nothing of eating raw clams from the bay won’t touch them, but a defense of carp is found here.

You have to be careful with fish from lakes, because sadly our lakes are polluted and some fish concentrate toxins like mercury. Mashapaug Pond is closed to fishing and swimming due to a century of pollution from Gorham Silver and other sources. Stay away from the water unless you want to turn blue and glow in the dark.

Fortunately, I was able to find a study of the Asian Carp, which seems to show that the fish are not any worse than other fish you can pull out of the Great Lakes. You can’t eat a lot of it, but you can eat it. Since toxins concentrate more in the skin, there might be ways to cook it that minimize the risk.

Would Asian Carp make a good fillet o’ fish sandwich? With the grease and the special sauce, who’d notice? In Japan they are having to learn to like the taste of dried jellyfish. So carp is better.

As a species, we are never going to stop being voracious. We just have to learn to use our appetite as a force for good. This is likely to be easier than curbing our appetite for cheap fuel, that is rapidly becoming terribly costly.

All Hail the Rail Trail!

When my body and spirit grow restless, I like to walk. A 30-60 minute ramble loosens the kinks from head to toe. I am fortunate to live close to the Manhan Rail Trail, which is my favorite local spot for perambulation. (That’s right. I said, “perambulation.” I like to trot out the fancy words once in a while, lest they feel neglected.)

I am rather fond of rail trails. Like urban community gardens sprouting upon abandoned lots, they are a fine example of reclaimed space. Everyone benefits from their presence. To show my support for such ventures, I contribute to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, an organization “whose mission it is to create a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines and connecting corridors to build healthier places for healthier people.” It’s a great cause and generally free of political controversy, which is a plus. (Of course, I’m sure there are some conservative wingnuts somewhere who believe that the reclamation of abandoned rail corridors is further evidence of a communist plot perpetrated by our socialist president to create a Muslim theocracy and destroy our way of life as we know it.)

In the summer, the best times to stroll the Manhan Rail Trail are early morning and early evening, when the temperatures are more moderate and the critters are out and about. Yesterday evening, I thought I spotted a fox dashing across the trail and did see a rabbit, which kindly posed for pictures. Here are a few photographs from yesterday’s jaunt:

Rabbit on the rail trail
Long-legged spider along the rail trail
Canoers on Lower Mill Pond
Drunes from a Staghorn Sumac

Ain’t Love Grand

Just What I Need, More Bugs

Morning report from the garden. When you only live for three weeks you have to make the best of it.

Let me say that I am not the only film critic who thinks that the best love scene of all time was the snails in ‘Microcosmos’.

Weren’t we supposed to get a thunderstorm? My car, where I spend most of my work day, is going to be an oven.

The cat’s all spread out on the floor and avoiding the sunny spots.

It’s a beautiful day. I’ll take too hot over too cold anytime.

For summer reading,  I tried Stieg Larsson’s ‘Girl With the Dragon Tatoo’, which was okay, but I don’t get what the fuss was about.  It’s a bummer that he didn’t live to enjoy the glory.

I hit the library for short stories by Ursula LeGuin and ‘Pigs in Heaven’ by Barbara Kingsolver, who is now up in my pantheon with LeGuin and Atwood.  I’m looking for distraction, whether it’s good literature or mindless pulp paperback. What are you reading?

Chipotle Chips in For Better School Lunches

One of the better food places to locate in Cranston of late is the Chipotle in Garden City. So imagine my delight when I heard that they are sponsoring a campaign to give $50,000 to a fund to improve the quality of school lunches. From a blog called Love and Trash:

“We don’t like junk. Not in our inboxes and not in our food.” – that’s the campaign slogan. Participation is simple: when you get a junk email, you forward it to nojunk@chipotlejunk.com. For every 100,000 emails they receive, they’ll give $10,000 to The Lunch Box to advocate and educate for better school food. Their top limit: $50,000.

Sounds good to me. I would LOVE to see the quality of school lunches improve — there is so much long-term value in feeding our children well.