Out of order

I’ve been on Facebook since 2008. In other words, I joined when it was fun.

Indeed, back then, folks concentrated on sharing random facts about themselves and creating something called Flair, which was basically buttons you made that represented people, places, and things you liked and/or loved. I devoted serious time and attention to choosing just the right pieces of Flair that represented my personality and interests.

Of course, I can’t remember specifics about those buttons because one day circa 2009, Facebook decided to rid the world of Flair boards. Soon after, people started using Facebook to try to sell me on commerce and/or ideas.

Oh, yeah, and to try to teach me math.

If you’re on Facebook, then you know what I’m talking about. If you’re not on there, here’s a synopsis: A wiseguy friend will share a long-expletive math problem that contains addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and parentheses. Said wiseguy will also share the answer to said problem whilst simultaneously mocking anyone who doesn’t know the answer. The wiseguy will be joined by a chorus of other wiseguys who will belittle anyone who doesn’t follow the order of operations to arrive at the right answer.

Spoiler alert: I never know the answer. I don’t even guess because I also don’t know what the order of operations is. What’s more, I’m not sure why people of an advanced age are bragging about remembering this order of operations. If they want to impress me, they can share scenes from Duran Duran videos or dialogue from “Family Ties.”

Of course, if these wiseguys were posting quizzes that asked us to determine whether to use their, there, or they’re, I wouldn’t be complaining. On the other hand, everyone speaks and, thanks to social media, email, and texts, most everyone writes on a daily basis. So, people need to know when to use their, there, or they’re.

But who’s doing math that requires them to reminisce about order of operations? I’m not talking about balancing a checkbook or handing out change. I’m talking about figuring out the answer to eight plus four divided by two subtracted by one (in parenthesis) multiplied by zero?

I’m bringing this to everyone’s attention because I need to know which occupations and activities require multiplying anything by zero or inserting random parenthesis into math problems so I can avoid these occupations and activities. After all, if working these math problems was a requirement of my employment, I would have already died in poverty. And if the bank had asked me to solve such a problem before giving me a mortgage, I would be homeless.

But if they ever ask me to create some snazzy Flair, I’ll be all over that.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.


Just like riding a bike

As you might remember, last month I wrote about my obsession with my Fitbit, Esmerelda (or Esme for short). I detailed my dedication to checking my steps, heart rate and sleep and to logging my water and food intake. I also speculated that Esme might not continue to hold my attention.

Although my obsession has waned a bit, I’m happy to report that I still jump up and walk when she reminds me that I need to move. In fact, I’ve annoyed family, friends and coworkers by walking during meetings and visits. I’ve also annoyed them by sending screenshots of workouts, but only when I reach and maintain my peak heart rate for a significant amount of time.

During our time together, I’ve become familiar with Esme’s idiosyncrasies. For example, sometimes she doesn’t track my steps. But sometimes she tracks inactivity as steps, so I guess we’re even.

Anyway, when I set up my goals, I requested that she automatically recognize certain activities such as walking and aerobics. From the start, she tracked my walks and gave me credit for those exercises.

Yet, in spite of the fact that I do aerobics four times a week, Esme did not automatically recognize those workouts for what they were. She, instead, tracked them as walks. She did track my steps taken, so in an uncharacteristic move, I didn’t worry about the misunderstanding. So, imagine my surprise when she notified me Friday that she had auto recognized my aerobic workout.

She seemed proud of herself, so I didn’t ask what had taken so long. Instead, I checked to see if I had reached my peak heart rate (I had) and said to myself, “Self, better late than never.”

That brings me to Sunday. When I opened my app to log my water intake that afternoon, I saw a notification from Esme. Ever helpful, she was letting me know she had auto recognized my outdoor bike ride.

I do not own an outdoor bike. I have not ridden an outdoor bike in approximately 20 years. I do own an inside bike, but I hadn’t been on it Sunday. Indeed, at that point in the day, I hadn’t exercised at all.

So, what activity did she incorrectly identify? What was I doing that she misinterpreted as riding a bike?

Making a cake.

I told you she was weird.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Just add water

To help reach their weight loss goals, many people count the calories (or in the case of Weight Watchers, the points) that comprise the food they eat. On a personal note, doing this has proven helpful to me, especially when I take the effort to log said calories or points into a food journal or app. For me, it’s a way to hold myself accountable. After all, once I confess to having eaten a couple (or more) cups of brownie batter, I can’t pretend it didn’t happen.

With that said (or written), I’ve seen some strange things on food labels. For example, according to the nutrition facts, one-twentieth dry mix of a box of brownies contains 110 calories.

As aforementioned, I enjoy brownie batter. Indeed, I’d rather eat the batter than the brownies. (This is also true for most cookies and cakes.) But even a weirdo such as myself has never eaten dry brownie mix. I’ve never even considered opening a box, grabbing a spoon, and digging into the mix. Can you imagine how much water you’d have to drink to keep from suffocating on that stuff?

Speaking of dry ingredients, if you look on a box of pasta, you will find that the nutritional info is for uncooked noodles. When she was a child, my niece stuck a macaroni noodle up her nose. I’m also familiar with people who have fashioned art from macaroni. But I have never known anyone who (admitted to) having eaten uncooked pasta. Again, there is not enough water in the world to make that appetizing.

Speaking of water, if you look on a can of green beans, you will find that the nutritional label contains information for both drained and undrained beans. While I appreciate the green bean company for trying to be helpful, they’ve actually made calorie counting more confusing.

For starters, the serving sizes are different. That means I’m left to my own devices to figure out how many calories are in one-third of a cup of drained beans when the serving size is one-half cup. I’m assuming the company has an abacus and a food scale in their kitchen, so couldn’t they have done some more measuring and done the math for me?

What’s more, does anybody actually eat undrained beans? Granted, dining on beans that are swimming in water doesn’t sound as unappealing as snacking on dry brownie mix and uncooked pasta, but it’s close.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Out of the rag bag

As I placed a bag onto the kitchen table, my mom asked, “What do you have there?”

“Well,” I explained to her and my sisters, “I was hoping you could offer me some advice, but you can’t laugh.” I then pulled out the contents of the bag – two knit sweaters – and said, “I’ve tried repeatedly, but I can’t get the stains out of these sweaters. Do you think we could turn them into rags?”

In spite of my request that they not laugh, guffaws filled the room. “What’s so funny?” asked I.

“They’re sweaters,” answered one of the hyenas. “You can’t clean with sweaters.”

Although I considered asking just where this rule was written, I instead said, “I don’t like throwing something away if I can still get use from it.”

“You’ve had those sweaters for 10 or 15 years,” my mom said, “you’ve gotten your use out of them.”

Although I considered correcting her and explaining that it had been more like 10 or 12 years, I instead said, “I guess you’re right.”

So, I took her advice and threw the sweaters into the garbage. But it pained me to do so. Just at it had pained me a couple months earlier to throw away a gray knit sweater that featured a huge hole in the front. And just as it had pained me to throw away a pair of pajama bottoms that featured huge holes in the backside.

Actually, saying goodbye to the pajama bottoms inflicted the most pain because they comprised one-half of my favorite pair of pjs. What’s more, I had gotten only five or six years out of them. But one morning a week or so before Christmas, I discovered a hole in said pajama bottoms.

Although I considered tossing them in the trash, I realized the folly in that plan. After all, they were clean and the hole wasn’t that big. So, I wore them a few more days. Of course, by that point, the small hole had morphed into three larger holes on the portion of the pajama bottoms that once covered my bottom.

Nonetheless, it was hard to part with the pj bottoms. In fact, I’ve held onto the pajama top out of nostalgia and because I don’t like throwing something away if I can still get use from it.

Hmm. Wonder if we could turn the pajama top into rags?

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Jumping the shark

I recently-ish watched “Jaws” for the first time.

That admission might make you ask yourself, “Self, what took her so long?” Well, you know what, smarty pants? Once you’ve seen every movie released during the past 40 years, you can judge me for missing a few.

One of the reasons I had never watched the blockbuster is because I’m not intrigued by sharks. Sure, I previously devote a column to a hypothetical fight between a shark and a lion, but that had more to do with my love for cats, both big and small, than an interest in fish, big or small.

But after watching “Jaws,” I devoted a minimal amount of time to thinking about sharks, specifically their sleep patterns and eyes. For instance, I had always heard that if a shark stops moving, it dies. So, when the movie ended, I researched the topic and it turns out this is sort of true.

The explanation involves too much science for me, but basically, some sharks depend on water flowing over their gills to keep them alive. If they stop moving, the water stops flowing and they stop breathing. Other shark species, however, breathe through their mouths, which doesn’t sound much better than using the gill method.

My mind immediately made the jump from (some) sharks can’t stop moving to sharks don’t sleep. It turns out this is also sort of true. Indeed, sharks don’t sleep the way humans do. According to my limited Internet research, they don’t enjoy deep sleep. Instead, part of their brains remain active while they “sleep swim.”

As someone who’s plagued by bouts of insomnia, I can empathize with sharks. It’s no wonder they always seem to be in a bad mood and looking for a fight. They’re sleep-deprived. I get cranky if I miss a night’s worth of sleep. If I had to miss a lifetime’s worth, I’d bite a swimmers head off, too.

Of course, sharks must contend with other anatomical issues. In fact, they don’t have eyelids. All that saltwater has to damage their eyes. I bet a few cases of that dry eye medicine Jennifer Aniston hawks on the TV would benefit them greatly.

Anyway, all this makes me feel bad for sharks. Think about it. Everyone’s afraid of them, but they can’t sleep and they can’t close their creepy, dead-looking eyes. I’ll take resting my eyes and brain over instilling fear into mankind any day.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

A track record

In spite of their popularity, until recently-ish I harbored skepticism for fitness trackers. I couldn’t understand why people chose to spend what I viewed as outrageous sums of money to track their fitness when much-less expensive pedometers would do just as well.

But as my exercise routine evolved, so did fitness trackers. The more I heard about their improvements, the more I asked myself, “Self, in addition to monitoring your sleep patterns and accurately-ish recording your steps, wouldn’t it be great if you could compare and contrast your resting heart rate with your active heart rate? If only there existed a tool that would allow you to do this.”

Of course, such a tool existed, but I wasn’t ready to commit to buying one. I was, however, ready to commit to researching said tool, reading online reviews, checking prices, and harassing friends and acquaintances who made the mistake of wearing trackers in my presence.

Months, if not years, of this research revealed that the acquisition of a tracker wouldn’t require an outrageous sum of money, that my friends and acquaintances were satisfied with their purchases, and that I really wanted one.

So, I ordered one.

According to my retailer of choice, my tracker of choice wasn’t supposed to arrive until Thursday. So, imagine my surprise when I spied a box on my porch Wednesday. My reaction was similar to that of Ralphie’s dad’s in “A Christmas Story” when his major award arrives. Indeed, I stopped my car and announced in a serious yet hopeful tone, “It’s here.”

Although I needed to use my facilities, I rushed into the house, grabbed the scissors, and tore open the box containing my major award. I didn’t wait to use the facilities, to feed the cat army, or to change into my exercise apparel before setting up and charging my tracker, who I named Esmerelda, or Esme for short.

I started using my tracker that night and I have not been disappointed. In fact, some might categorize my behavior as obsessive. Upon waking in the mornings, I check the app to see how I slept. (By the way, Esme even knows when I’m dreaming.) I loyally log my water and food intake, and when Esme reminds me that I haven’t achieved my hourly step goal, I jump up and start walking.

I also check my stats constantly. I’m happy to report that my average resting heart rate is 62 beats per minute and that once whilst exercising I entered my peak heart zone.

As with any tool or toy, I’m sure the new will wear off. I’m sure there will come a day in the near future when I’ll be awake for minutes or hours before I check to see how I slept. I’ll probably start forgetting to log my water and food intake. I might even lose interest in my heart rate.

But that’s not happening today.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Becoming a pod person

Last week a friend mentioned she had been listening to a podcast that deals with one of my myriad obsessions. In fact, she’s one of many friends who have been encouraging me to listen to podcasts for some time. Although I’m frequently intrigued by some of the podcasts they suggest, I had never before taken the step to listen to one. Heck, I didn’t even listen to a podcast that featured me. Basically, I lose focus and interest when I’m listening to something for large chunks of time. It’s the same reason I don’t listen to books on tape. (Yes, I realize books haven’t been on tape in years, but books on tape sounds better than audiobooks.)

Anyway, such is my obsession with the subject my friend referenced that I made a vow to listen to my first podcast.

Thus, I couldn’t wait to get home and finish my chores so I could download the podcast. Of course, this presented a problem. My friends listen to podcasts whilst exercising or driving. Even though I exercise and drive, but not at the same time, those options don’t work for me.

I thought I might be able to listen whilst writing, but that undertaking lasted for approximately two seconds. Then, I tried listening whilst reading. That lasted approximately three seconds.

That’s when I decided to quit multitasking and give the podcast my full attention. For the most part, that worked. As expected, I did lose focus a couple times and had to rewind, but my biggest problem was that I didn’t know where to put my eyes. I kept expecting a video to pop up on my screen and I kept thinking I should be doing something whilst listening.

So, I turned to my podcast-experienced friends for more advice and that’s how I learned that my bestie listens whilst cleaning. As it turns out, I had baking and housework to do this weekend, so I plugged my ear buds into the phone and set about downloading and listening.

There were some issues. For starters, I moved around a lot, which resulted in me repeatedly and accidentally yanking the ear buds out of the phone. I finally solved that problem, however, by placing the phone in my garments.

What’s more, one of the times the ear buds popped out, I overcorrected and pushed the wrong button on my phone, which resulted in the folks on the podcast sounding like the Chipmunks. I finished that episode in record time and was onto the next one when I finally figured out I was listening at double speed.

Overall, though, listening whilst cleaning house and baking worked for me. Not only did it help me learn oodles more about one of my myriad obsessions, it’s as if I cleaned at double speed.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.